site logo

Monthly retail sales from the US Commerce Department

The department’s Census Bureau tracks estimates each month. Retail Dive provides the numbers for key segments, and their year-over-year progress, or decline.

Editor’s Note: Comparisons for individual segments are updated each month to reflect the government’s revisions to its year ago figures. A full methodology for how Retail Dive tracks retail sales figures is included at the bottom of this page.

Every month, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, releases its first calculation of the previous month’s retail sales. At Retail Dive, we report these figures by grouping the key segments that define “retail” in a way that we hope is most meaningful to the industry.

We use unadjusted, advance numbers and year-over-year comparisons, with the government’s most recent revisions to its year-ago estimates. And although we of course include e-commerce, captured in the federal report as “nonstore retailers,” readers will note that the government includes sales from businesses not generally thought of as “e-commerce.”

YoY sales performance by sector
YTD retail sales

How key retail sales fared year over year

Retail sales estimates for key sectors

Click on a sector to see its sales over the last 12 months.

Clothing & accessories
Electronics & applicances
Furniture & home
General merchandise
Non-store
Sporting goods, hobby, bookstores
Retail Dive calculates “total retail sales” of core segments, as well as what the Commerce Department calls “Nonstore retailers.” That includes e-commerce, mail order and infomercials, but also revenue from subsectors not generally considered traditional retail, including vending machines, home delivery (including newspapers and home heating oil), door-to-door solicitation, in-home demonstrations and portable stalls like non-food street vendors. Year-over-year comparisons use the most recent revisions to estimates; year-to-date numbers use only advance numbers.
Data from U.S. Census Bureau, Advanced Monthly Retail Trade Survey

    Methodology

    The federal government’s retail sales reports are highly anticipated each month. This tracker is based on the government’s “unadjusted” numbers, which track with how retailers themselves report sales.

    The Commerce Department revises its numbers a couple of times after they are first published. To accommodate that, and to make the data more meaningful, Retail Dive has adjusted the year-over-year comparisons in each segment to use the government’s most recently revised year-ago number.

    For the 2020 graph, that means that a decline or rise each month reflects the change from the most updated figure in 2019 to the latest (or advance) number in 2020. Past data points are revised to reflect this, and moving forward this is how the data will be calculated. In most cases, the numbers change only slightly if at all, but when the government’s revisions are major, it can make a difference. The year-to-date chart is based on “advance” numbers.