Strong Retail Sales Report Counting Upward Revisions


The May retail sales number missed expectations slightly but the Census Bureau upgraded April from -0.2% to +0.3%.

The Census Bureau's Advance Retail Sales Report was a strong one, especially in light of revisions.

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for May 2019, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $519.0 billion, an increase of 0.5 percent from the previous month, and 3.2 percent above May 2018. Total sales for the March 2019 through May 2019 period were up 3.6 percent (±0.5 percent) from the same period a year ago. The March 2019 to April 2019 percent change was revised from down 0.2 percent to up 0.3 percent.

Retail trade sales were up 0.5 percent from April 2019, and 3.1 percent above last year. Nonstore retailers were up 11.4 percent from May 2018, while sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores were down 4.2 percent from last year.

Winners and Losers

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Winners and losers are easy to spot.

Year-Over-Year Winners

  • Nonstore retail sales (think Amazon) are up 11.4% from a year ago.
  • Overall numbers including autos are 3.0 to 3.2%.
  • Food and drinking establishments are up 3.7%.

Year-Over-Year Losers

  • Department store sales are down 4.6% from a year ago.
  • Electronic stores are down 2.4%.
  • Clothing sales are down 2.3% and sporting goods 4.2%.
  • Miscellaneous retailers (booths in department stores and malls) are down 2.6%.


Broadly speaking, if it's related to housing (Appliances, Gardening, Furniture) sales are also weak, -2.4%, +0.2%, +0.6% respectively.

Questions Abound

Some numbers just don't seem to add up.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (21)
No. 1-5

Why is this conflicting in the era of less consumption by millenials ? Many of the numbers over the last two decades have been mixed and due to secular changes in America's spending habits.



Secular change slower than I expected. I think boomer retirements - propped up by strong stock market - is helping car sales and spending in general


Inflation is 6%

Savings rate is 6%

Money supply growth is 5%

Tariffs are regressive

The welfare class is getting an incentive squeeze to take a job and contribute to society by creating wealth rather than sucking on the wealth creators.

Ted R
Ted R

Higher stock prices make people feel like they are wealthier than they really are. Purely psychological. I wonder what investor and consumer psychology will be when the tide turns and the stock market tanks? Not to mention when housing really slides?


"Nonstore retail sales (think Amazon) are up 11.4% from a year ago." "Department store sales are down 4.6% from a year ago."

Not long ago there was a story about numerous empty store fronts in one section of Manhattan. What does that sort of thing do to a community?

Meanwhile, news was the other day that Amazon is building a couple more fulfillment centers in southern California.

Global Economics