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NRF: Consumer spending surged 0.4% in September

The National Retail Federation reported Monday that September retail sales -- excluding autos, fuel and restaurants -- increased a seasonally adjusted 0.4%, thanks to strong showings from clothing and electronics stores.

“In spite of the uncertainty and unease surrounding our nation’s high unemployment and long-term fiscal challenges, consumers continue to spend and shop,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Robust back-to-school spending combined with a series of new, technology-led product launches certainly helped retailers in September. The American consumer is holding their own in this economic environment but the question remains, for how long?” 

September retail sales, also released Monday by the Department of Commerce, showed total retail and food services sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants) increased 1.1% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 5.4% unadjusted year-over-year. 

“With recent data painting a more optimistic view of consumer confidence, we can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “While the latest retail sales data indicates continued improvement for the economy, increasing gas prices and the looming fiscal cliff still pose serious challenges to the momentum we’ve seen in consumer spending.”

Other findings from the September retail sales report include: 

• Clothing and clothing accessories stores' sales increase 0.6% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 3.6% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Electronics and appliance stores’ sales increased 4.5% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 2.5% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales increased 0.4% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 5.1% unadjusted year-over-year.

• General merchandise stores’ sales increased 0.3% seasonally adjusted month-to-month but decreased 1.2% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Health and personal care stores’ sales increased 0.4% seasonally adjusted month-to-month yet decreased 2.0% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Nonstore retailers’ sales increased 1.8% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 8.7% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 0.8% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 3.9% unadjusted year-over-year.

NRF said it is now projecting year-over-year retail sales growth of 4.5%.

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