September retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, rose 0.4% over August and 3% year over year, according to a National Retail Federation report emailed to Retail Dive on Monday. Online and other non-store sales rose 1.1% from August and 8.9% year over year, according to the NRF, which based its report on numbers released by the federal government.
The U.S. Commerce Department reported Monday that retail trade sales rose 0.4% from August 2018, and 4.4% year over year, while e-commerce sales rose 1.1% from August and 11.4% year over year. The figure missed the expectation for a 0.7% rise in overall retail sales and a 0.5% rise in retail trade sales from Nomura Instinet analysts, according to an email to Retail Dive.
According to NRF: electronics and appliance sales rose 4.6% unadjusted year-over-year and 0.9% seasonally adjusted from August; clothing and accessories sales rose 3.1% unadjusted from a year ago and 0.5% seasonally adjusted from the prior month; health and personal care sales rose 1.8% unadjusted year-over-year and fell 0.3% from August; furniture and home furnishings sales rose 1.5% unadjusted compared with 2018 and 1.1% seasonally adjusted from August; sporting goods sales fell 6.3% unadjusted year-over-year and rose 0.7% seasonally adjusted from August; and building materials and supplies sales fell 0.3% unadjusted from the year-ago period and rose 0.1% seasonally adjusted from August.
September retail sales according to the Commerce Department's Census Bureau reached $448.5 billion, a decline of 170 basis points year over year and 10 basis points sequentially on a 2-year basis, Wells Fargo analysts noted in an email sent to Retail Dive.
Retail strength, simply put, is mixed across categories, according to another note from Moody's Investors Service.
"[T]he latest data is a sign that there are pockets of strength in the overall retail space and positive consumer sentiment due to the improving employment picture, which is encouraging spending,” Moody's Vice President Mickey Chadha said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive. "We expect that the overall improving economic fundamentals, coupled with increased credit availability, lower unemployment and wage growth, will translate into higher consumer spending for the remainder of the year."
Spending at restaurants, which several retailers are turning to in order to boost traffic and sales, have recently outpaced wider retail sales but fell dramatically in September, according to another note from Wells Fargo. That dragged down the government's overall number. Taking them out, "group retail sales actually came in a little better than expected, up 0.5% in September," Wells Fargo Senior Economist Tim Quinlan said in a note emailed to Retail Dive.
Electronics sales in particular (thanks probably to the new iPhone's debut in the period) and online sales more generally took market share in the month, according to Wells Fargo.
The fragmented picture arrives as the holiday season nears, but the overall strength in the economy bodes well, despite the prospect of rising interest rates. Those could hit spending after the season. "[The] U.S. Economic Outlook Growth remains strong, but we expect the economy to slow in 2019 as the impact of fiscal stimulus fades," according to a note from Nomura analysts. "We expect one more hike ... in 2018 and inflation to gradually climb higher."