Retail sales continue to rebound

Oct 22, 2020
Written by Renée Sunde, President & CEO

There’s a ray of retail hope opening after the last four months of national sales growth. Retailers are innovating during the pandemic, shoppers are finding new ways to buy and are determined to return joy into their lives after an historically challenging year.

For the past four months consecutively, most retail categories showed year-over-year sales increases, the National Retail Federation reports. The results are for core retail categories excluding auto dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. The federation has become optimistic about a strong holiday shopping season.

Let’s remember the “why” behind the positive results.

In early spring Congress responded to the pandemic with stimulus checks for taxpayers. Today, more consumers are returning to work and have temporarily delayed vacations and some entertainment choices. Stores have reopened safely, and as disposable income has shifted to retail store purchases, the economic recovery is building back slowly but steadily.

Nationally, year-over-year sales were up 12% unadjusted in September, more than double the 5.7% year-over-year increase in August. In September, some of the largest unadjusted year-over-year sales gains included 27% in online, 23.4% in building materials, 18.3% in sporting goods, 9.7% in general merchandise and 7.8% in health and personal care products.

Though the recent results are encouraging, the recovery isn’t complete. Unemployment remains high in Washington State and numerous established retailers, particularly in Seattle, have closed.

Regardless, the sales momentum is encouraging and shows that consumer confidence is building back from the low point of the economy as the pandemic took hold last spring and many retailers were ordered to close. Retail health also comes with a positive ripple effect on the economy. As retailers buy inventory, for example, manufacturers make more products and hire more employees.

Because retailers have committed to reopen safely, the prospects for maintaining the momentum for an economic recovery are encouraging as 2020 comes to an end.