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Retail Sales See Slight Uptick In May; Sporting Goods Stores Up 2.5 Percent

Retail sales increased 0.3 percent from April to May and gained 1.6 percent year-over-year. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales would decline 0.1 percent month-over-month.

In April, sales were up 0.4 percent month-over-month and up 1.2 percent year-over-year. Retail sales thus far in 2023 have been bumpy after climbing 3.2 percent month-over-month in January. Sales month-over-month were down 0.2 percent in February and down 1 percent in March.

The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) calculation of retail sales, which excludes auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants to focus on core retail, showed May was up 0.4 percent from April and up 4.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

In April, sales were up 0.6 percent month-over-month and up 1.4 percent year-over-year, according to the NRF’s calculations. The NRF’s numbers were up 3 percent unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average as of May. Sales were up 4.2 percent year-over-year for the first five months of the year.

“Consumers continued to spend on household priorities in May, supported by gains in the job market and wages,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers recognize the ongoing pressure on cost-sensitive consumers and are offering competitive pricing, a wide product mix and convenient shopping options to help stretch family budgets.”

“This was a positive report with no sign of an abruptly slowing economy despite what has happened with inflation and interest rate pressures,” the NRF’s Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Even though shoppers dialed back in some categories on a year-over-year basis, these numbers confirm that consumers still have the capacity to spend. Job growth and wages are providing buoyancy, although inflation continues to take a bite out of consumer income. May is typically a strong month for retail as spring shopping hits its peak, but above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation no doubt played a favorable role.”

May sales were up in six out of nine retail categories on a yearly basis, led by health and personal care stores, online sales and grocery and beverage stores, and across the board on a monthly basis. Specifics from key sectors include:

  • Health and personal care stores were unchanged month-over-month, seasonally adjusted, but up 9.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Online and other non-store sales were up 0.3 percent month-over-month, seasonally adjusted, and up 8.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 0.3 percent month-over-month, seasonally adjusted, and up 3.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores were up 0.3 percent month-over-month, seasonally adjusted, and up 2.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 2.2 percent month-over-month, seasonally adjusted, and up 1.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores were up 0.4 percent month-over-month, seasonally adjusted, and up 1.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were unchanged month-over-month, seasonally adjusted, but down 0.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were up 0.2 percent month-over-month, seasonally adjusted, but down 4.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 0.4 percent month-over-month, seasonally adjusted, but down 4.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

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