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September sales jump proves consumers are shopping despite economy, says NRF

Washington- Consumers kept retailers' cash registers ringing in September, as sales increased a modest 0.4% from August but more impressively jumped a better-than-expected 5.7% over the year-ago period.

This is according to the National Retail Federation, which noted "shoppers continued to show strength during a weak economic recovery."

September retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales -- which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants, increased 1.1% month-to-month and 8.6% over last year, partially due to strong auto sales.

"The American consumer and the retail industry continue to lead this recovery, and strong September retail sales are just what the economy needs right now," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and ceo. "The unexpectedly strong sales increase in September may work to dampen fears of a double-dip recession and could indicate an economic and employment rebound."

Much of September's strength came as a result of retail sales increases due to Hurricane Irene and an influx of shoppers who chose to complete back-to-school shopping later this year. Building materials stores rose 6.4% over last year, sporting goods stores were up 7.2% and clothing store sales increased 8.3%. August retail sales were revised upward to 0.4 from July, which was originally reported as 0.1%.

"Despite stagnant unemployment figures and a shaky stock market, American consumers are holding their own," said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. "While September's sales figures were strong, retailers' fourth quarter growth will continue to depend heavily on the labor market and consumer confidence, both of which continue to experience weakness."

Earlier this month, NRF forecast holiday sales to rise 2.8% this year to $466 billion. NRF defines holiday sales as retail industry sales in the months of November and December.

Other highlights of September sales:

-September sales were strong across the board. Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores increased 1.3% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 8.3% unadjusted year-over-year;
-Electronics and appliance stores sales increased 0.2% seasonally adjusted over the previous month and 0.7% unadjusted year-over-year;
-Health and personal care stores also performed well. Sales at these stores increased 0.3% seasonally adjusted over August and 4.8% unadjusted year-over-year;
-Furniture and home furnishing stores' sales increased 1.1% seasonally adjusted from the previous month and 4.3 % unadjusted over last year;
-Building materials and garden equipment stores sales decreased 0.1% from August but increased 6.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

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