By Lenore Fedow
Overall retail sales were up 5.4 percent year-over-year in September, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, marking the fourth straight month of year-over-year gains.
New York—Consumer spending in the U.S. rose at a faster-than-expected pace in September, marking the fourth straight month of year-over-year gains and hinting at signs of a recovery ahead.

Overall retail sales were up 1.9 percent month-over-month in September to $549.3 billion, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, climbing 5.4 percent year-over-year.

The monthly sales topped economists’ expectations of a 0.7 percent increase.

In August, sales were up 0.6 percent month-over-month, as per revised numbers.

Excluding the auto segment, retail sales were up 1.5 percent month-over-month, greater than the 0.4 percent estimate.

“Retail sales showed impressive gains in September,” said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay in a press release about the results.

“Consumers continue to prove their resilience and strength through this pandemic. Retailers and consumers are adapting to the current environment, embracing shopping in different ways and focusing on specific categories.”

The NRF said a “strong rebound” in apparel led the charge in a V-shaped recovery, referring to a sharp decline in economic activity followed by quick and sustained growth.

Sales from clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 11 percent month-over-month, though down 12 percent year-over-year.

Shay said he is “optimistic about the prospects for a strong holiday season,” noting the ways the retail industry has innovated to keep things running during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Retail sales are continuing to build on the momentum we’ve seen through the summer and have been boosted by an improving labor market, a rebound in consumer confidence and elevated savings,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz in a press release.

He noted that while many people remain unemployed, there are more returning to work and that leads to confidence in spending.

The improved monthly sales are reflective of the government’s support and a rise in savings, he said, allowing consumers to begin shopping again.

“With less spending on personal services such as travel and entertainment outside the home, some of that money is shifting to retail cash registers. All in all, these numbers and other economic data show the nation’s economy remains on its recovery path.”

The NRF also calculates monthly retail sales, narrowing in on core retail and excluding auto sales, gas stations, and restaurants.

Its calculations show September sales were up 1.3 percent seasonally adjusted from August and up 12 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Three-quarters of retail categories saw both month-over-month and year-over-year increases, according to the NRF.

The largest year-over-year increase was seen in online sales.

Electronics and appliance stores were the only category to see a decline, down 1.6 percent month-over-month.

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