Sep 15, 2023
NRF: Retail sales grew again in August despite slowing economy

Retail sales rose in August as parents shopped for school supplies and other goods even as inflation continued and interest rates remained high, the National Retail Federation recently reportedd.

“August retail sales show that consumers remain steadfast in the face of continued inflation and higher interest rates,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “Consumers are focused on household priorities, as evident by spending this back-to-school season. Entering the fall, we expect moderate growth to continue despite uncertainties like the direction of inflation and interest rates as well as a potential government shutdown.”

“NRF’s numbers show the pace of retail growth cooled from July but that consumers are still active even as they continue to be selective and price sensitive,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. “Households have the capacity to spend, but momentum is slowing, in part because savings built up during the pandemic are running lower and credit costs are rising. Consumer spending growth has slowed but there is little hint of any sudden collapse.”

The U.S. Census Bureau said overall retail sales in August were up 0.6% from July and up 2.5% year over year. That compared with increases of 0.5% month over month and 2.6% year over year in July.

NRF’s calculation of retail sales – which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail – showed August was up 0.1% seasonally adjusted from July and up 3.3% unadjusted year over year. In July, sales were up 0.7% month over month and also up 3.3% year over year.

NRF’s numbers were up 3.2% unadjusted year over year on a three-month moving average as of August and up 3.8% for the first eight months of the year.

August sales were up in five out of nine retail categories on a yearly basis, led by health and personal care stores, online sales and clothing and accessory stores, and up in all but two categories on a monthly basis. Specifics from key sectors include:

  • Health and personal care stores were up 0.5% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 7.8% unadjusted year over year.
  • Online and other non-store sales were unchanged month over month seasonally adjusted but up 7.6% unadjusted year over year.
  • General merchandise stores were up 0.3% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 3% unadjusted year over year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 0.4% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 2.8% unadjusted year over year.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.1% month over month seasonally adjusted but down 3.8% unadjusted year over year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 1% month over month seasonally adjusted and down 7.6% unadjusted year over year.