Welcome to The Backroom, your window into what goes on behind the scenes as the Retail Dive team covers the stories and trends reshaping retail. You can check out all our podcast episodes (past and present) here and listen on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and Spotify.
At the beginning of this year, Retail Dive overhauled its system of reporting the Department of Commerce's monthly retail sales numbers. Instead of focusing on the total sales number provided by the Commerce Department, we've pulled out key categories that matter most to our audience — general merchandise; sporting goods, hobby and bookstores; furniture and home; electronics and appliances; clothing and accessories; and non-store — while leaving out other segments, like food and fuel.
For the most part, instead of looking at month-to-month change, Retail Dive is analyzing the year-over-year numbers because we think it's a better indication of how the industry is performing. However, in the midst of a pandemic, where much of the industry was forced to temporarily shutter stores and are just now beginning to reopen, the month-to-month numbers help visualize just how much COVID-19 has disrupted the industry.
On this episode, Senior reporters Daphne Howland and Ben Unglesbee break down retail sales numbers from recent months and discuss what they could indicate about the months to come.