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What Are Retail Sales? Definition and Examples

What Are Retail Sales?Retail sales are an important monthly indicator of the U.S. economy, helping to gauge whether consumers are spending on items such…



Retail sales data are released monthly to gauge consumer spending and help to measure economic growth.


What Are Retail Sales?

Retail sales are an important monthly indicator of the U.S. economy, helping to gauge whether consumers are spending on items such as cars, clothes, food, mobile phones, computers, and gasoline. It’s also an indicator on how fast consumer prices might be rising. As such, retail sales are a lagging indicator, showing the past performance of spending habits and prices.

When Are Retail Sales Released?

Retail sales are released in the middle of the month at 8:30 a.m. ET by the Census Bureau, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the formal title of the report is known as the Advanced Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services. Data for the latest reporting month are estimates, while data for the previous month or months tend to be revised to reflect accuracy and actual pricing.

The following are the release dates for the remaining months of 2022:

How Are Retail Sales Compiled?

Retail sales include durable and non-durable goods, food, and retail items sold in the latest reporting month and are expressed in dollars. Percentage changes are calculated from the previous month and the same month of the previous year, but investors and analysts usually focus their attention on the month-to-month change. An increase in the price of an item month-over-month could show that consumers are spending more per item, the price per item has risen, or both. A decrease could indicate the reverse.

The Census Bureau compiles results of surveys sent to approximately 5,500 employer firms selected from its larger Monthly Retail Trade Survey, of which questionnaires are mailed to about 12,500 retail businesses with paid employees. The data are seasonally adjusted, meaning that the numbers are adjusted to account for seasonal variation and holiday and trading day differences.

Retail Sales Example: January–April 2022

Below is a table showing by segment the cumulative composition of $2.5 trillion in sales for the first four months (January–April) of 2022:

Automotive parts and accessories accounted for the biggest portion of retail sales, followed by nonstore retailers, which is essentially e-commerce that comprises electronic shopping and mail-order houses. Food and drink-related businesses made up almost a quarter of sales.

How to Interpret Retail Sales Data

Fluctuations in retail sales tend to occur in the first and fourth quarters of the year, reflecting the seasonality of consumer spending. An upward or downward trend could suggest strong or weak economic growth, as well as inflationary pressures.

Below is a graph of the month-to-month changes in retail sales between April of 2013 and April of 2022:

Retail sales fluctuated sharply during the pandemic as consumers held off and splurged on purchases.

Census Bureau

Below is a graph on the month-to-month change in the consumer price index for the same period:

Consumer prices in the past decade climbed at their fastest during the pandemic.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Retail sales and CPI experienced sharp changes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Retail sales picked up in most of the months since then, while inflation accelerated. In the first four months of 2022, retail sales were above their average in the corresponding months of the past decade, suggesting that prices for many goods were on the rise rather than an increase in consumer spending.

The correlation coefficient between retail sales and CPI from April 2013 to April 2022 was 0.296, which was calculated by comparing the two datasets’ month-on-month change per month over the period. There were periods in which retail sales were in lockstep with the direction of CPI, but the correlation between the two skewed to the low side.

How Do Financial Markets React to Retail Sales Report?

Higher retail sales data can be good for the stock market. Strong data would suggest that consumers are spending more, translating into higher revenue and profit for companies in retail and food services, which in turn would lead to an appreciation in their stock prices. Bond investors, on the other hand, would react negatively to retail sales suggesting a pickup in inflation, and that would send bond prices lower.

Why Are Retail Sales Important?

Retail sales are an important indicator of consumer sentiment and can serve as a sort of barometer for the economy. Higher retail sales could indicate that the economy continues to grow as Americans spend more on everyday items such as food and gasoline as well as durable goods such as washing machines and stoves.

What’s the Trend for Retail Sales?

Since the mid-2000s, consumers shifted their purchases to online sellers such as Amazon, eroding sales at traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Some long-time retailers have either had to shutter operations or reduce the number of their stores and employees across the U.S. because of the challenges in competing with the prices set by online sellers. In the past decade alone, the proportion of e-commerce sales to total retail has jumped from about 6 percent in 2013 to about 15 percent in April 2022. That number is likely to grow further.

The Census Bureau publishes an e-commerce report each quarter, but it could better serve the public by releasing more information such as a breakdown of the items sold.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The following are answers to some of the most common questions investors ask about retail sales.

What Are Considered Retail Sales?

Items that are sold directly to consumers, be it online or at a neighborhood store, are considered retail sales.

What Are Core Retail Sales Data?

Some investors and analysts would not include big-ticket items such as auto sales and focus only on smaller items to reflect everyday (or daily, common) purchasing. In the same way that core CPI is calculated, certain items that tend to have large price swings—such as gasoline—are removed when calculating core retail sales.

Are Restaurants and Bars Included in Retail Sales?

Restaurants and bars that cater to consumers are included in retail sales. These establishments are a good indicator as to whether households are cutting back on dining outside their homes.

When Are Retail Sales the Strongest?

Retail sales tend to be the strongest during the fourth quarter of the year in the months leading up to Christmas Day. Sales tend to be the slowest during the first quarter of the year.

How Do E-Commerce Sales Compare With Total Retail Sales?

E-commerce is increasingly gaining in its proportion of retail sales each year. As traditional brick-and-mortar stores shift more of their sales online, e-commerce sales are likely to continue to grow.

What Are Advanced Retail Sales Data?

Advanced retail sales data refer to the latest reporting month in the Advanced Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services report, and the data are typically estimated. In subsequent months, that month’s data are likely to be revised for accuracy.

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Costco Tells Americans the Truth About Inflation and Price Increases

The warehouse club has seen some troubling trends but it’s also trumpeting something positive that most retailers wouldn’t share.



Costco has been a refuge for customers during both the pandemic and during the period when supply chain and inflation issues have driven prices higher. In the worst days of the covid pandemic, the membership-based warehouse club not only had the key household items people needed, it also kept selling them at fair prices.

With inflation -- no matter what the reason for it -- Costco  (COST) - Get Free Report worked aggressively to keep prices down. During that period (and really always) CFO Richard Galanti talked about how his company leaned on vendors to provide better prices while sometimes also eating some of the increase rather than passing it onto customers.

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That wasn't an altruistic move. Costco plays the long game, and it focuses on doing whatever is needed to keep its members happy in order to keep them renewing their memberships.

It's a model that has worked spectacularly well, according to Galanti.

"In terms of renewal rates, at third quarter end, our US and Canada renewal rate was 92.6%, and our worldwide rate came in at 90.5%. These figures are the same all-time high renewal rates that were achieved in the second quarter, just 12 weeks ago here," he said during the company's third-quarter earnings call.

Galanti, however, did report some news that suggests that significant problems remain in the economy.

Costco has done an incredibly good job at holding onto members.

Image source: Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images

Costco Does See Some Economic Weakness

When people worry about the economy, they sometimes trade down when it comes to retailers. Walmart executives (WMT) - Get Free Report, for example, have talked about seeing more customers that earn six figures shopping in their stores.

Costco has always had a diverse customer base, but one weakness in its business may be a warning sign for its rivals like Target (TGT) - Get Free Report, Best Buy (BBY) - Get Free Report, and Amazon (AMZN) - Get Free Report. Galanti broke down some of the numbers during the call.

"Traffic or shopping frequency remains pretty good, increasing 4.8% worldwide and 3.5% in the U.S. during the quarter," he shared.

People shopped more, but they were also spending less, according to the CFO.

"Our average daily transaction or ticket was down 4.2% worldwide and down 3.5% in the U.S., impacted, in large part, from weakness in bigger-ticket nonfood discretionary items," he shared.

Now, not buying a new TV, jewelry, or other big-ticket items could just be a sign that consumers are being cautious. But, if they're not buying those items at Costco (generally the lowest-cost option) that does not bode well for other retailers.

Galanti laid out the numbers as well as how they broke down between digital and warehouse.

"You saw in the release that e-commerce was a minus 10% sales decline on a comp basis," he said. "As I discussed on our second quarter call and in our monthly sales recordings, in Q3, big-ticket discretionary departments, notably majors, home furnishings, small electrics, jewelry, and hardware, were down about 20% in e-com and made up 55% of e-com sales. These same departments were down about 17% in warehouse, but they only make up 8% in warehouse sales."

Costco's CFO Also Had Good News For Shoppers

Galanti has been very open about sharing information about the prices Costco has seen from vendors. He has shared in the past, for example, that the chain does not pass on gas price increases as fast as they happen nor does it lower prices as quick as they sometimes fall.

In the most recent call, he shared some very good news on inflation (that also puts pressure on Target, Walmart, and Amazon to lower prices).

"A few comments on inflation. Inflation continues to abate somewhat. If you go back a year ago to the fourth quarter of '22 last summer, we had estimated that year-over-year inflation at the time was up 8%. And by Q1 and Q2, it was down to 6% and 7% and then 5% and 6%," he shared. "In this quarter, we're estimating the year-over-year inflation in the 3% to 4% range."

The CFO also explained that he sees prices dropping on some very key consumer staples.

"We continue to see improvements in many items, notably food items like nuts, eggs and meat, as well as items that include, as part of their components, commodities like steel and resins on the nonfood side," he added.


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Under Pressure From Fat Activists, NYC Bans Weight Discrimination

Under Pressure From Fat Activists, NYC Bans Weight Discrimination

Discriminating against fat people is now illegal in New York City, after…



Under Pressure From Fat Activists, NYC Bans Weight Discrimination

Discriminating against fat people is now illegal in New York City, after Mayor Eric Adams on Friday signed off on a ban that will affect not only employment, but also housing and access to public accommodations -- a term that encompasses most businesses. 

We're in safe company using the word "fat," as champions of the cause refer to themselves as "fat activists." With the mayor's signature, two more categories -- both weight and height -- are added to New York City's list of protected personal attributes, which already included race, gender, age, religion and sexual orientation. 

As Mayor Adams signs the law, self-described (and everyone else-described) fat activist Tigress Osborn consumes more than her share of the backdrop (James Messerschmidt for NY Post)

Embracing one of 2023's innumerable strains of Orwellian brainwashing, Adams declared, "Science has shown that body type is not a connection to if you’re healthy or unhealthy. I think that’s a misnomer that we’re really dispelling.”

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say obesity is an invitation to a host of maladies, including to high blood pressure Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, many types of cancer, mental illness and difficulty with physical functioning. 

“Size discrimination is a social justice issue and a public health threat," said Councilmember Shaun Abreu, who introduced the measure. "People with different body types are denied access to job opportunities and equal wages — and they have had no legal recourse to contest it," said Abreu. "Worse yet, millions are taught to hate their bodies." 

A full 69% of American adults are overweight or obese, but our woke overlords would have us believe the real "public health threat" is a nice restaurant that doesn't want Two-Ton Tessie working the reception desk, or a landlord who's leary of a 400-pound man breaking a toilet seat or collapsing a porch.  

The enticingly-named Tigress Osborn, who chairs the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, said New York's ban "will ripple across the globe" -- perhaps something like what would happen if the hefty Smith College Africana Studies graduate were dropped into a swimming pool.  

Councilmember Shaun Abreu said he gained 40 pounds during the pandemic lockdowns and noticed people treated him differently

The New York Times reports that witnesses who testified as the measure was under consideration included "a student at New York University said that desks in classrooms were too small for her [and] a soprano at the Metropolitan Opera [who] said she had faced body shaming and pressure to develop an eating disorder." 

Some have dared to speak out against the measure. “This is another mandate where enforcement will be primarily through litigation, which imposes a burden on employers, regulators and the courts,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, speaking in April. 

Implicitly putting the weight ordinance in the same category as Brown vs Board of Education, Abrue said, “Today is a monumental advancement for civil rights, size freedom and body positivity and while our laws are only now catching up to our culture, it is a victory that I hope will cause more cities, states and one day the federal government to follow suit.” 

Taking effect in six months, the law has an exemption for employers "needing to consider height or weight in employment decisions" -- but "only where required by federal, state, or local laws or regulations or where the Commission on Human Rights permits such considerations because height or weight may prevent a person from performing essential requirements of a job." 

We pray there's a federal exemption for employers of strippers and lap dancers. 

Think we're joking? We remind you that the chair of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance is named "Tigress" -- and this is her Twitter profile banner photo:

via Tigress @iofthetigress
Tyler Durden Sun, 05/28/2023 - 15:30

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“What’s More Tragic Is Capitalism”: BLM Faces Bankruptcy As Founder Cullors Is Cut By Warner Bros

"What’s More Tragic Is Capitalism": BLM Faces Bankruptcy As Founder Cullors Is Cut By Warner Bros

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

Two years…



"What's More Tragic Is Capitalism": BLM Faces Bankruptcy As Founder Cullors Is Cut By Warner Bros

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

Two years ago, I wrote columns about companies pouring money into Black Lives Matter to establish their bona fides as “antiracist” corporations. The money continued to flow despite serious questions raised about BLM’s management and accounting. Democratic prosecutors like New York Attorney General Letitia James showed little interest in these allegations even as James sought to disband the National Rifle Association (NRA) over similar allegations. At the same time, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors cashed in with companies like Warner Bros. eager to give her massive contracts to signal their own reformed status. It now appears that BLM is facing bankruptcy after burning through tens of millions and Warner Bros. cut ties with Cullors after the contract produced no — zero — new programming.

Some states belatedly investigated BLM as founders like Cullors seemed to scatter to the winds.

Gone are tens of millions of dollars, including millions spent on luxury mansions and windfalls for close associates of BLM leaders.

The usual suspects gathered around the activists like former Clinton campaign general counsel Marc Elias, who later removed himself from his “key role” as the scandals grew.

When questions were raised about the lack of accounting and questionable spending, BLM attacked critics as “white supremacists.”

Warner Bros. was one of the companies eager to grab its own piece of Cullors to signal its own anti-racist virtues.  It gave Cullors a lucrative contract to guide the company in the creation of both scripted and non-scripted content, focusing on reparations and other forms of social justice. It launched a publicity campaign for everyone to know that it established a “wide-ranging content partnership” with Cullors who would now help guide the massive corporation’s new programming. Calling Cullors “one of the most influential thought leaders in American public life,” Warner Bros. announced that she was going to create a wide array of new programming, including “but not limited to live-action scripted drama and comedy series; longform/event series; unscripted docuseries; animated programming for co-viewing among kids, young adults and families; and original digital content.”

Some are now wondering if Warner Bros. ever intended for this contract to produce anything other than a public relations pitch or whether Cullors took the money and ran without producing even a trailer for an actual product. Indeed, both explanations may be true.

Paying money to Cullors was likely viewed as a type of insurance to protect the company from accusations of racial insensitive. After all, the company was giving creative powers to a person who had no prior experience or demonstrated talent in the area. Yet, Cullors would be developing programming for one of the largest media and entertainment companies in the world.

One can hardly blame Cullors despite criticizism by some on the left for going on a buying spree of luxury properties.

After all, Cullors was previously open about her lack of interest in working with “capitalist” elements. Nevertheless, BLM was run like a Trotskyite study group as the media and corporations poured in support and revenue.

It was glaringly ironic to see companies like Warner Bros. falling over each other to grab their own front person as the group continued boycotts of white-owned businesses. Indeed, if you did not want to be on the wrong end of one of those boycotts, you needed to get Cullors on your payroll.

Much has now changed as companies like Bud Light have been rocked by boycotts over what some view as heavy handed virtue signaling campaigns.

It was quite a change for Cullors and her BLM co-founder, who previously proclaimed “[we] are trained Marxists. We are super versed on, sort of, ideological theories.” She denounced capitalism as worse than COVID-19. Yet, companies like Lululemon rushed to find their own “social justice warrior” while selling leggings for $120 apiece.

When some began to raise questions about Cullors buying luxury homes, Facebook and Twitter censored them.

With increasing concerns over the loss of millions, Cullors eventually stepped down as executive director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, as others resigned.  At the same time, the New York Post was revealing that BLM Global Network transferred $6.3 million to Cullors’ spouse, Janaya Khan, and other Canadian activists to purchase a mansion in Toronto in 2021.

According to The Washington Examiner, BLM PAC and a Los Angeles-based jail reform group paid Cullors $20,000 a month. It also spent nearly $26,000 on meetings at a luxury Malibu beach resort in 2019. Reform LA Jails, chaired by Cullors, received $1.4 million, of which $205,000 went to the consulting firm owned by Cullors and her spouse, according to New York magazine.

Once again, while figures like James have spent huge amounts of money and effort to disband the NRA over such accounting and spending controversies, there has been only limited efforts directed against BLM in New York and most states.

Cullors once declared that “while the COVID-19 illness is tragic, what’s more tragic is capitalism.” These companies seem to be trying to prove her point. Yet, at least for Cullors, Warner Bros. fulfilled its slogan that this is all “The stuff that dreams are made of.”

Tyler Durden Sun, 05/28/2023 - 16:00

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