US Retail Sales Fell 0.3% in May

In the bigger picture, though, retail sales continue to increase at a moderate pace in tune with steady growth of the USA economy.

Sales at department stores were actually lower last month than they were in May 2016, reflecting the erosion caused by internet rivals.

Andrew Hunter, US economist at Capital Economics, said: "A good part of the weakness in headline retail sales can be explained by the 2.4% month-on-month decline in the nominal value of gasoline station sales, stemming from the 6% m/m fall in retail gasoline prices last month". Auto sales account for about one-fifth of all USA retail sales and have an outsized impact on the monthly report.

The drop in sales surprised economists, who had expected sales to inch up by 0.1 percent compared to the 0.3 percent increase originally reported for the previous month. Sales at nonstore retailers increased 0.8% from April, while increasing 10.2% year-over-year.

Spending fell sharply at department stores and electronic stores in May from April.

Bucking the weak trend in May were sales of non-store retailers increasing 0.8 percent after a strong 0.9 percent increase in April and furniture & home furniture stores, up 0.4 percent after a decline of 0.3 percent in April.

Building Material and Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers were up 10.8%.

The retail sales data capture just under half of all household purchases, and other reports indicate spending on services has probably been rising.

But many retailers are seeing a slowdown of late. The information and opinions herein are for general information use only.

  • Zachary Reyes