I went back over the advance retail sales starts for a closer look at what's happening. 

Advance Retail Sales 1992-Present

Advance Retail Sales 2020-08C

The above baseline chart shows sales have recovered above pre-Covid levels for the third month.

For June, July, and August, sales topped $206 billion vs $203 billion in February, seasonally-adjusted in 1982-1984 dollars. 

Misleading Chart

The above chart is misleading because it does not show winners and losers, nor does it show year-to-date comparison.

Year-to-Date Total Sales Not Seasonally or Price Adjusted

  • 2019: $510.6 Billion
  • 2020: $403.9 Billion

Retail sales have not really recovered but there are winners and losers.

Advance Retail Sales in 2020

Advance Retail Sales Select Categories 2020-08 Detail.

The recovery is more than a bit uneven. 

Details

  • Motor vehicles and parts, have recovered.
  • Nonstore retailers (Amazon) never slowed in the first place. 
  • Food and beverage store sales shot up but have given back some gains.
  • I doubt the rebound in food and drinking places is as good as it looks. 
  • General merchandise sales generally flatlined thanks to stores like Wal-Mart that stayed open because they offered food. 
  • The Gas rebound is anemic because people are still working from home.
  • Department stores remain in deep trouble.

Department stores have been dying a slow death for decades. Does anyone care?

For further discussion, please see What Major Stores Went Bankrupt in 2020?

Mish