New York—The Delta variant is raging through the U.S. and the retail industry is struggling amid supply chain and workforce disruptions.
Despite those headwinds, retail sales still rose in August due to resilient consumer demand in the face of it all.
Overall, U.S. retail sales were up 0.7 percent month-over-month in August to $618.7 billion, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, while year-over-year sales were up 15 percent.
Sales in July were less strong than previously thought, down 1.8 percent month-over-month, rather than the previous 1.1 percent, and up 15.1 percent year-over-year, as per the revised figures.
Though there have been occasional month-over-month declines, sales have grown year-over-year every month since June 2020, according to U.S. Census data.
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“The increase in August retail sales reflects the continued strength of the American consumer and the resilience of our nation’s retailers,” said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay in a press release about the results.
“In spite of the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic, concerns about the delta variant, and supply chain and workforce constraints, the retail industry continues to do what it does best – serve customers and support communities while keeping team members and associates safe and healthy.”
“We maintain our confidence in the historic strength of consumers and fully expect a record year for retail sales and a strong holiday season for retailers.”
NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz noted the strength of the U.S. consumer, even as government stimulus fades and the COVID-19 infection rates surge in parts of the country.
The back-to-school shopping season was unique this year, he said, as some school districts returned to in-person learning while others delayed the start of classes until after Labor Day, but sales still remained high.
“These results pave the way for sturdy consumer spending and a strong economy in the fourth quarter.”
The NRF also calculates retail sales, excluding auto sales, gas stations, and restaurants.
Its calculations also show August retail sales were up 2.3 percent seasonally adjusted from July, and up 12 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
For the first eight months of the year, sales as calculated by NRF were up 15 percent over the same period in 2020.
The results are in line with its revised forecast that 2021 retail sales should grow between 10.5 and 13.5 percent over 2020 to between $4.44 trillion and $4.56 trillion.
August sales were up in all but two categories—sporting goods stores and electronics and appliance stores, though these have been strong in the last year—on a monthly basis.
Year-over-year, sales were up across the board, led by increased sales at clothing, sporting goods, and electronics stores.