US re­tail sales grow for 5th month in a row

Baltimore Sun - - BONUS PUZZLE PAGE - By Joseph Pisani

NEWYORK— Re­tail sales rose strongly in Septem­ber, the fifth straight month of growth, as Amer­i­cans spent more on cloth­ing, cars and sport­ing goods.

U.S. re­tail sales jumped 1.9% last month, the U.S. Com­merce Depart­ment said Fri­day. That’s more than dou­ble what was econ­o­mists were ex­pected. And it’s up from the 0.6% in­crease in Au­gust.

“Amer­i­cans raced to the stores in Septem­ber,” said BMO Cap­i­tal Mar­kets an­a­lyst Sal Gu­atieri, in a note to in­vestors, adding that they were “buy­ing just about ev­ery­thing in sight, es­pe­cially cloth­ing.”

Sales at cloth­ing stores rose 11%, ac­count­ing for much of Septem­ber’s over­all growth. Even sales at depart­ment stores, which have been fall­ing out of fash­ion with shop­pers for years, rose 9.7% last month.

At auto deal­er­ships and auto part shops, sales were up 3.6%. And those look­ing to go camp­ing or buy ex­er­cise equip­ment sent sales at sport­ing goods stores 5.7% higher.

Re­tail sales have been re­cov­er­ing since plung­ing in the spring as stores and malls were or­dered closed to help pre­vent the spread of the coron­avirus. And spend­ing has con­tin­ued even af­ter more than 20 mil­lion un­em­ployed Amer­i­cans lost a $600 boost in their weekly un­em­ploy­ment checks at the end of July.

Ser­vices such as hair­cuts and ho­tel stays are not in­cluded in Fri­day’s re­port. All of those types of busi­nesses have been badly hurt by the pan­demic.

Whether peo­ple will keep shop­ping re­mains to be seen. The un­em­ploy­ment rate is still high, at 7.8% last month. Some econ­o­mists say more fed­eral checks for out-of-work Amer­i­cans are needed to sus­tain spend­ing. And some say ris­ing COVID-19 cases could keep peo­ple away from stores.

Re­tail­ers are al­ready fac­ing a hol­i­day sea­son like no other.

Best Buy, Tar­get and Wal­mart of­fered hol­i­day deals in mid-Oc­to­ber for the first time, pig­gy­back­ing off Ama­zon’s Prime Day sales event.

Stores hope the Oc­to­ber deals will jump-start hol­i­day shop­ping early and keep crowds away in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, avoid­ing a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion dur­ing a pan­demic.

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