Retail sales increase in August despite a “trifecta of macroeconomic headwinds”


“The increase in retail sales in August reflects the continued strength of the US consumer and the resilience of retailers in our country.”

President and CEO of NRF, Matthew Shay

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – Retail sales rose in August, as consumer demand outpaced the pandemic, supply chain disruptions and other factors affecting spending, the National Retail Federation said today.

“The increase in retail sales in August reflects the continued strength of the American consumer and the resilience of our nation’s retailers,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Despite the current 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. better – serve customers and support communities while ensuring the safety and health of team members and associates. . We maintain our confidence in the historic strength of consumers and look forward to a banner year for retail sales and a strong holiday season for retailers. “

“Retail sales in August weathered unusual twists and turns that affected buying behavior both in terms of timing and mix of sales,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist of the NRF. “The consumer remains rock solid despite the trio of macroeconomic headwinds we’ve seen this year, including waning government stimulus, elevated COVID-19 infections, and continued supply chain challenges in the form labor and asset shortages. Higher sales occurred even with a rambling back to school year which also affected the sales schedule as many school districts reverted to in-person learning but some delayed classes until after Labor Day. These results pave the way for robust consumer spending and a strong economy in the fourth quarter. “

The United States Census Bureau said today that overall retail sales in August were up 0.7% seasonally adjusted from July and 15.1% year-on-year. This compares to a 1.8% month-over-month decline and a 15.1% year-over-year increase in July. Despite occasional month-over-month declines, sales have increased year-over-year in every month since June 2020, according to census data.

The calculation of the NRF of retail sales – which excludes car dealerships, gas stations and restaurants to focus on core retailing – showed that August was up 2.3% seasonally adjusted from to July and 12% unadjusted from one year to the next. This compares to a 1.8% month-over-month decline and an 8.9% year-over-year increase in July. NRF numbers rose 11.4% year-on-year on a three-month moving average.

For the first eight months of the year, sales calculated by NRF increased by 15% compared to the same period in 2020. This is consistent with NRF’s revised forecast that 2021 retail sales are expected to grow between 10 , 5 and 13.5% from 2020 to reach between $ 4.44 trillion and $ 4.56 trillion.

August sales increased in all but two categories on a monthly basis and year over year overall, led by increases in clothing, sporting goods and electronics stores . The specifics of the key sectors include:

  • Clothing and clothing accessories stores were up 0.1% month over month, seasonally adjusted, and 36.6% unadjusted year over year.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 2.7% month over month, but were up 20.3% year over year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 3.1% month over month, but were up 18% year over year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 3.7% month over month, seasonally adjusted, and 16.1% unadjusted year over year.
  • General merchandise stores were up 3.5% month over month, seasonally adjusted and 13.6% unadjusted year over year.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 0.2% month over month, seasonally adjusted, and 10.6% unadjusted year over year.
  • Online and other non-store sales increased 5.3% month over month, seasonally adjusted, and 10.6% unadjusted year over year.
  • Building material and garden supply stores were up 0.9% month over month, seasonally adjusted, and 8.8% year over year unadjusted.
  • Grocery stores and beverage stores were up 1.8% seasonally adjusted month over month and unadjusted year over year 4.8%.

About the NRF
The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail association, is a passionate advocate for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help the retail business thrive. From its headquarters in Washington, DC, NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, contributing $ 3.9 trillion to annual GDP and supporting one in four jobs in the United States – 52 million American workers. For over a century, NRF has been the voice of every retailer and every retail profession, educating, inspiring and communicating the powerful impact of retailing on local communities and global economies.


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