Washington, D.C. — The advanced estimate for June retail sales nationwide is up 7.5 percent on a month-over-month basis, the U.S. Commerce Department reports. Consumers visited stores and auto dealerships in-person for the second straight month as businesses began reopening their doors. Retail sales totaled $524.3 billion in June, up from $487.7 billion in May. The most recent figure shows spending is near pre-pandemic levels, as the Commerce Department reported that February 2020 spending reached $527.3 billion. The Commerce Department also revised the May retail sales rate up by 50 basis points to 18.2 percent growth from April.
Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), says that while the growth is trending positively, the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases across the country could slow sales in the months to come. As of this writing, there were nearly 3.6 million positive cases in the U.S, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU). Additionally, JHU reports that there were 77,255 new cases Thursday, setting a single-day record.
“The retail sales numbers from last month were very encouraging and reflect continued progress in the right direction,” says Shay. “However, recent spikes in infection rates across the country have us focused on keeping associates and their customers safe, which is the only way we can keep the economy open as we move forward.”
NRF this week called on all retailers to adopt a nationwide policy requiring customers to wear face coverings or masks during the pandemic. Retailers such as Walmart, Target, CVS/pharmacy, Kroger and Kohl’s have implemented or are planning mask requirements.
“How durable the improvement in retail spending will be is directly related to how widespread the resurgence in COVID-19 cases becomes,” adds NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “All eyes are on the infections that are accelerating in many parts of the country and they pose a serious threat to recovery.”