Slipping in September

Don Hogsett, Staff Staff, October 20, 2003

Held in check by sluggish car sales, retail sales dipped by 0.2 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted level of $320.6 billion, giving up some of August's hefty 1.2 percent increase, the Commerce Department reported.

But auto sales aside, the overall picture actually improved, with retail sales of all other products in the agency's shopping cart increasing by 0.3 percent, to a seasonally adjusted $243.9 billion from $243.3 billion the prior month.

Taking a big bite out of the total retail sales figure, the highly volatile number for car sales, tumbled by 1.6 percent, to $76.7 billion from $77.9 billion in August, giving up all and more of an August increase of 0.9 percent.

Sales of home-related categories presented a mixed picture during the month, as sales in furniture and home furnishings stores slipped by 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted $8.5 billion; and sales in electronics and appliance stores declined at a slightly faster pace, by 0.3 percent, to a seasonally adjusted $8.1 billion. But helped by warm weather, sales in building material and garden supply outlets, like Home Depot and Lowe's, shot up by 1.9 percent, to a seasonal level of $27.9 billion, making that channel the month's biggest winner.

Another big winner was clothing and accessories retailers, up by 1.4 percent, to a seasonal $15.1 billion, their highest level in months, following a sluggish summer.

Consumers continued to favor the Internet and shun traditional retail outlets, prompted by low prices, often the absence of sales taxes, and free shipping offers. Sales in non-store retailers increased by 1.2 percent, to an adjusted $16.4 billion.

RETAIL SALES IN SEPTEMBER (by channel)

Winners
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Building material & garden supplies +1.9%
Clothing & accessories 1.4
Non-store retailers 1.2
Health & personal care stores +0.4
Food & beverage stores +0.3
Gas stations +0.3
Losers
Sporting goods, hobby, books & music -1.9%
Car dealers -1.6
Restaurants & bars -1.4
Electronics & appliances -0.3
Furniture & home furnishings stores -0.2


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