Cars Speed Retail Sales

Don Hogsett, Staff Staff, October 25, 2004

Fueled by surging car sales, which raced ahead 4.6 percent recovering from weakness the month before, overall U.S. retail sales jumped 1.5 percent in September, a stronger than expected performance, the Commerce Department reported.

Accounting for much of September's big gain was the strong increase in car sales, which rebounded from a 1.4 percent drop in August, the agency reported.

But strength was recorded across the board, with most major channels reporting gains. The only two laggards during the month were furniture and home furnishings retailers, where sales declined 0.4 percent, and sporting goods, book and music stores, down 0.4 percent.

In addition to cars, other big winners during the month were building material and garden supply outlets, up 1.4 percent; department stores, up 0.9 percent; and clothing and accessories stores, up 0.8 percent.

“Though many analysts had written off September as sluggish, consumers behaved otherwise,” said Rosalind Wells, chief economist of the National Retail Federation.” Consumer behavior has been erratic this year, but shoppers are starting to show signs of life.”

Looking ahead to the all-important Christmas selling season, the NRF is forecasting that holiday sales will increase 4.5 percent.

Retail sales in September
(By Channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Car dealers +4.6%
Building materials +1.4
Department stores +0.9
Clothing & accessories +0.8
Restaurants & bars +0.7
Grocery stores +0.6
Electronics stores +0.5
Personal care stores +0.4
Non-store retailers +0.4
Gas stations +0.1
Home furnishings stores -0.4
Sporting goods -0.4

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