Washington, D.C. — The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports a growth in retail sales during the month of June, confirming the organization’s revised predictions made at the beginning of July. NRF revised its retail sales forecast for 2021 retail sales to increase between 10.5 to 13.5 percent over 2020 to a range of $4.44 trillion and $4.56 trillion. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that retail sales have increased year-over-year every month since June 2020, including May, which had a decline of 1.7 percent month-over-month and a growth of 27.6 percent year-over-year.
Retail sales — not including automobile dealers, gas stations and restaurants — were up 0.8 percent in June from May and up 12.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year, according to the NRF. The Washington, D.C.-based trade association also reports that there was a big increase in sales during the yearly Amazon Prime Day promotion on June 21 and 22, but that hot temperatures and tropical storms like Hurricane Elsa may have negatively impacted retail sales. The NRF expects an increase in back to school shopping as children head back to school, some for the first time since before the pandemic.
Clothing and accessory stores increased 2.6 percent month-over-month and increased 49.4 percent year-over-year. Also, electronics and appliance stores increased 3.3 percent month-over-month and 36.5 percent year-over-year.
However, not all the categories of retail had a sizable jump in sales compared to 2020. For example, grocery and beverage stores were only up by 0.6 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and increased 3.7 percent year-over-year. This may be because grocery and beverage stores were very busy during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and these businesses have slowed down in activity in recent months comparatively.
Some states have completely lifted all pandemic-related restrictions, but other states in the country are beginning to reinforce restrictions and mask mandates as COVID-19 cases rise. The Wall Street Journal reports that retail sales in June increased 18 percent compared the last pre-pandemic month (February 2020) and that consumer spending has shifted more to sales of clothing, general merchandise and department stores.
Despite the surge in sales, the U.S. retail sector is still feeling the impacts of the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal reports that there are supply-chain issues with many consumers getting impatient with how many items are out of stock for long periods of time as well as long shipping times. Additionally, the news outlet reports that many retailers are still struggling to hire enough workers to open positions, which some officials believe is due to federal unemployment benefits. Many states have opted to end unemployment benefits earlier than the September 6 deadline that the federal government says it will end all unemployment benefits.