Retail Sales Return to Earth for Appliance and Electronics Stores

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Sell-through at appliance and electronics specialty stores slipped 3.9 percent in October, according to the latest monthly sales estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The data, which skews heavily toward national big-box chains like Best Buy, may also reflect the widespread product shortages besetting the appliance industry.

Total sales for the combined channel hit $7.8 billion for the month, adjusted for seasonal variation and for holiday and trading day differences, but not for price changes. Despite the year-over-year decline, revenue edged up 1.2 percent from September.

In contrast, sales for furniture and home furnishings retailers rose 5.2 percent in October, to $10.4 billion, while online-only merchants once again outpaced all other distribution channels with a 29.1 percent spike in sales, to $88.2 billion.

Total retail sales, excluding restaurants, auto dealers and gas stations, were up 5.7 percent last month, to $497.7 billion, the Census Bureau reported.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association, attributed the gains to an early start to the holiday shopping season. “We are encouraged by another positive retail sales number for October — the sixth consecutive positive monthly gain — as early holiday shopping provided a strong boost to the data,” said NRF president/CEO Matthew Shay.

But the trade group’s chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, added a note of COVID-related caution to the glad tidings. “The rise in COVID-19 cases continues to be a factor that weighs on consumer perceptions, sentiment and spending,” he said, “and there could be retrenchment if we cannot thwart this latest wave.”

“Nonetheless,” he added, “retailers are well prepared to safely fulfill holiday shopping lists, and the October results suggest so far, so good.”