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U.S. retailers report sluggish September sales


October 16, 2008
By NRF

Oct. 16, 2008 – With economic pressures hindering consumer spending, retail sales continued to lag in advance of the holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales for September decreased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from last month, while increasing 1.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

September retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) were flat (0.0%) unadjusted over last year and down 1.2 percent seasonally adjusted from August.
 
“With economic concerns weighing down consumers, retailers are facing incredible challenges heading into the fourth quarter,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “Retailers are cutting operating costs by whittling back inventory levels and trimming labor costs, but it is nearly impossible for companies to fully counteract a complete pullback in consumer spending.”
 
There were few bright spots as the slowdown in consumer spending impacted most discretionary retail categories. Sales at furniture and home furnishing stores decreased 2.3 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month and dropped 9.2 percent year-over-year unadjusted. Electronics and appliance stores declined 1.5 percent month-to-month seasonally adjusted while decreasing 2.1 percent unadjusted from September 2007.
 
Apparel retailers also saw declines of 2.3 percent seasonally adjusted from August and dipped 2.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
 
As consumers continue to  focus on necessities, health and personal care stores’ sales remained solid, increasing 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and 6.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Grocery stores also posted strong gains, increasing 3.8 percent unadjusted from September 2007, while decreasing 0.4 percent from August.

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