Retail sales were down slightly in October 2012, including a 1% drop in adjusted sales at electronics and appliance stores.
The first drop in retail sales in three months came as consumers, worried about political uncertainty and impacted n the East Coast by Hurricane Sandy, decreased their discretionary spending. The National Retail Federation said October retail sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) were down 0.3%, seasonally adjusted, from September 2012 - but were up 3.9% unadjusted year-over-year.
NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said Hurricane Sandy certainly hurt consumer spending in parts of the country, but the fiscal cliff is a larger threat to the overall economy. "The automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year may have more of an impact on business confidence and consumer spending than any other issue," Shay said. "It's imperative that policymakers address the looming fiscal cliff now to give consumers some certainty heading into the holiday shopping season."
NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said the underlying strength of the American consumer was encouraging but not definitive, and he sees the aftermath of the hurricane continuing to affect consumer spending in areas hit by the storm. He added, "Even though retail sales declined in October, NRF remains confident in moderate consumer spending nationwide, and expects a solid holiday shopping season."
Data from the U.S. Commerce Department showed that:
* Electronics and appliance store sales were down 1.0%, seasonally adjusted month-to-month. Sales were down 4.2% unadjusted year-over-year.
* General merchandise store sales were up 0.2% seasonally adjusted month-to-month but down 1.1% unadjusted year-over-year.
* Nonstore retailer sales were down 1.8% seasonally adjusted month-to-month but up 12.6% unadjusted year-over-year.
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