May Retail Sales Reflect Inflation’s Impact

Furniture stores still showing resilience

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Shoppers applied the brakes to retail spending last month as the impact of higher prices for food, gasoline, rent and other essentials began to take hold.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s May retail tally, seasonally adjusted sales at appliance and electronics stores slipped 1.3% from April and fell 4.5% year over year, to $7.7 billion, weighed down by a sluggish consumer tech sector.

Furniture and home furnishings stores fared better, with month-over-month sales edging down 0.9% and year-over-year sell-through up 1.9%, to $12.2 billion.

Home improvement chains posted some of the strongest sales, up 6.4 percent from last year and flat from April, reflecting what Lowe’s and Home Depot executives described as the resilience of their core home-owning customers.

See: Lowe’s, Home Depot Shrug Off Inflation Fears

Overall retail sales, excluding car dealers, gas stations and restaurants, were down 0.3 percent from April but rose 8.1 percent from the prior year.

“We expected some cooling off in sales in reaction to prices,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association. “There’s been little relief from inflation [and] there have been swings across sectors that reflect the impact of both higher prices and supply chain disturbances.”

Related: Inflation is Finally Catching Up to Consumers

Kleinhenz said higher interest rates are likely to further curb consumer spending, as shoppers seek to stretch their dollars by saving less, tapping into pandemic-period savings and increasing their use of credit.

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.