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May sales slow due to ongoing inflation

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WASHINGTON – Retail sales slowed in May as consumers faced continuing inflation and higher prices for essentials like food and gasoline, the National Retail Federation said Wednesday.

NRF“Retail sales are reflecting Americans’ growing concern about inflation and its impact on the cost of everything from groceries to gas,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers are doing what they can to keep prices down, but we continue our call on the administration to repeal unnecessary and costly tariffs on goods from China to relieve pressure on American consumers and their family budgets.”

“There’s been little relief from inflation, and we expected some cooling off in sales in reaction to prices, NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “There have been swings across sectors that reflect the impact of both higher prices and supply chain disturbances, and higher interest rates are expected to curb spending going forward. As inflation continues, consumers are looking for ways to stretch their dollars by saving less, tapping into savings accumulated during the pandemic and increasing their use of credit.”

The U.S. Census Bureau today said overall retail sales in May were down 0.3% seasonally adjusted from April but up 8.1% year over year. That compared with increases of 0.7 percent month over month and 7.8% year over year in April.

NRF’s calculation of retail sales – which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail – showed May was unchanged seasonally adjusted from April but up 6.7% unadjusted year over year. In April, sales were up 0.4 percent month over month and up 5.5% year over year.

NRF’s numbers were up 5.4% unadjusted year over year on a three-month moving average as of May. Sales were up 7.3% year over year for the first five months of the year.

May sales were up in eight out of nine categories on a yearly basis, led by building materials stores, online sales and grocery stores, but fell in nearly half the categories on a monthly basis. Specifics from key sectors include:

  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.2 % month over month seasonally adjusted and up 8.8 % unadjusted year over year.
  • Online and other non-store sales were down 1% month over month seasonally adjusted but up 8.5% unadjusted year over year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 1.2% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 7.1% unadjusted year over year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 0.1% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 6% unadjusted year over year.
  • Health and personal care stores were down 0.2% month over month seasonally adjusted but up 5.8% unadjusted year over year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 0.9% month over month seasonally adjusted but up 2.3% unadjusted year over year.
  • Sporting goods stores were up 0.4% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 1.2% unadjusted year over year.
  • General merchandise stores were up 0.1% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 0.9% unadjusted year over year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 1.3% month over month seasonally adjusted and down 4.3% unadjusted year over year.

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