If high gas prices were supposed to slow things down, someone forgot to tell the consumer. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail industry sales for May (which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) rose 8.2 percent over last year and 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted over April.
“Even with easing consumer confidence, high gas prices and rising interest rates, consumers continued to spend last month,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “A housing market plateau and inflation and interest rate pressures will prove to be the deciding factor for the remainder of the year.”
May retail sales, released last week by the U.S. Commerce Department, show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 9.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year and a 0.1 percent increase from the previous month. April sales were also revised upward from initial reports of 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent.
The strongest increase in retail sales came in the building material and gardening equipment and supplies category, with a 14.4 percent growth unadjusted over last year. Electronics and appliance stores also saw healthy gains, with sales increasing 7.2 percent unadjusted from last May. Furniture and home furnishing stores were also among the top gains, showing a 9.1 percent increase over last year’s sales. Clothing and clothing accessories stores were among the top performers as well, with a 6.7 percent increase year-over-year. Health and personal care stores rose a solid 7.6 percent increase and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores continued their growth with a 9.3 percent unadjusted from last year.