Economy Watch: Retail Sales Inch Up in October

Following a strong month of sales in September, the retail sector got saw another 0.2 percent increase in sales in October, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, October 2017
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, October 2017

U.S. retail and food service sales were up 0.2 percent in October compared with the previous month, the Census Bureau reported on Wednesday. The change from August to September 2017, already a very strong month, was revised from up 1.6 percent to up 1.9 percent. Compared with October 2016, overall retail sales increased 4.6 percent.

With car sales factored out of the total, retail and food service sales were up only 0.1 percent for the month in October. Car and car parts sales increased 0.7 percent for the month, and 5.6 percent for the year.

Compared with last year, most retailers are enjoying higher sales. Building supply stores experienced an 8.8 percent increase since last year, and furniture stores saw a 4.4 percent increase. Even electronics stores did tolerably well year-over-year, with sales up 2 percent. Department stores enjoyed a 0.8 percent gain compared with last year, perhaps because the weakest of them are being weeded out.

The only losing category for year-over-year sales was sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, down 2.5 percent, with some of their business slowly being siphoned off by e-commerce. Unusually, Internet sales were down in October by 0.3 percent, but continued to grow on an annual basis, up 6.8 percent.