Retail sales remain flat in May

WASHINGTON – Retail sales in May were essentially unchanged on a seasonally adjusted basis after an upwardly revised gain of 0.6 percent, according to calculations released today by the National Retail Federation. In May, sales were 5.3 percent above the year-ago level on an unadjusted basis and increased four percent on a 3-month moving average year-over-year. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“Consumers continued to show solid purchasing power in May, but they are buying more without spending more,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “The lack of retail pricing power continues to be a benefit to consumers but an ongoing challenge for retailers.”

“The industry is off to a good start in the second quarter and prospects remain in line with our annual forecast for spending”

Jack Kleinhenz
NRF Chief Economist

“While the month-to-month comparisons may be unimpressive, current trends in retail sales growth are healthy,” Kleinhenz said. “It is important to note that retail sales over the past three months are four percent higher than they were during the same three-month period last year. The industry is off to a good start in the second quarter and prospects remain in line with our annual forecast for spending.”  

When looking at business lines, performance in May was similar across segments, with the electronics sector seeing the biggest losses. On a year-over-year basis, building materials and furnishings have seen the greatest growth, closely followed by online and other non-store sales, and furniture and furnishings.

A few specifics include:

  • Online and other non-store sales increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted over April and increased 12.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at clothing and accessories stores increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from April and increased 2.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at general merchandise stores decreased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over April but increased 1.3 percent year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliances stores’ sales decreased 2.8 percent seasonally adjusted over April but decreased 0.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales increased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from April and increased 6.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at building materials and supplies stores remained unchanged from April but increased 14.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores’ sales decreased 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from April and decreased 2.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.  
  • Sales at health and personal care stores remained unchanged over April but increased 2.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

About NRF
The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association. Based in Washington, D.C., NRF represents discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.