May’s retail sales show consumer resilience and confidence in the economy

WASHINGTON – Retail sales rose 0.5 percent in May seasonally adjusted from April and up 3.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said today. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

"The strong job market, recent income gains and elevated confidence translates into ongoing support for spending."

NRF Chief Economic Jack Kleinhenz



“Today’s retail numbers, and upward revisions to prior months, reinforce the ongoing strength of the consumer and are consistent with a pick up in the pace of the economy in the coming months. The strong job market, recent income gains and elevated confidence translates into ongoing support for spending. Households, in the aggregate, are in solid financial condition but an escalation in trade tariffs will undoubtedly create a considerable downdraft to confidence and spending, or lead to a pullback in spending,” NRF Chief Economic Jack Kleinhenz said.

Revisions to April monthly data were significant with retail sales reversing a loss of 0.2 percent monthly change to a gain of 0.3 percent. Retail sales data has been unusually choppy given the economic environment in recent months which include the partial government shutdown, volatile energy prices, roller coaster equity markets, notwithstanding escalating trade tensions. May’s retail sales increases were broad based, with nearly all categories showing gains, with the only decline coming from food and beverage stores.

As of May, the three-month moving average was up 3.3 percent over the same period a year ago, compared with a gain of 2.9 percent in April. May’s results build on a revised gain of 0.3 percent month-over-month and a revised 5.9 percent gain year-over-year in April.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said today that overall May sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were up 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted from April and were up 3.2 percent year-over-year.

Specifics from key retail sectors during May include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 11.4 percent year-over-year and up 1.4 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • General merchandise stores were up 4.4 percent year-over-year and up 0.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 3.8 percent year-over-year and up 0.6 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 2.3 percent year-over-year and down 0.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 1.2 percent year-over-year and up 0.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were down 1.4 percent year-over-year but up 0.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 1.9 percent year-over-year but up 1.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 2.4 percent year-over-year but up 1.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 2.4 percent year-over-year and unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

About NRF

The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail thrive. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP and supporting one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans. For over a century, NRF has been a voice for every retailer and every retail job, educating, inspiring and communicating the powerful impact retail has on local communities and global economies.