Though the month of September was burdened with the impact of two hurricanes and much higher gas prices, retail sales continued to rise. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail industry sales for September (which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) rose a vigorous 7 percent unadjusted over last year and increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from August. The gains, which led third-quarter sales to rise 6.4 percent over 2004, were stronger than NRF had been expecting.
“While many analysts expected consumers to hold back on spending as a result of higher gas prices, shoppers had other plans,” reports NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “This is a good sign for retailers as they head into the holiday season.”
September retail sales released last week by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) rose 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted from August and increased 7.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Gasoline sales, which NRF does not include in its calculation of retail industry sales, rose 36.2 percent unadjusted from last September.
Robust growth was seen in nearly every retail category last month. Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers saw a surge, with sales rising 1.0 percent from August and 9.3 percent adjusted over last year.
NRF expects retail industry sales to increase 5.6 percent this year over 2004. Holiday sales, which are defined as retail industry sales in the full months of November and December, are expected to rise 5 percent to $435.3 billion.