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Retail Sales Surge Despite Covid and the Chip Shortage Hurting Auto Sales

Economists expected another decline in retail sales for August. Consumers had other ideas.
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Advance Retail Sales Month-Over-Month 2021-08

Upside Surprise

Advance Retail Sales for August surprised to the upside according to the Census Bureau's Advance Sales Report.

  •  Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for August 2021 were $618.7 billion, an increase of 0.7 percent from July, and 15.1 percent above August 2020. 
  • Total sales for the June 2021 through August 2021 period were up 16.3 percent  from the same period a year ago. 
  • The June 2021 to July 2021 percent change was revised from down 1.1 percent  to down 1.8 percent
  • Motor vehicles sales declined 3.6% month from July and have been trending lower for four months on parts shortages.
  • Online sales were the big winner in August, up 5.3% from July.
  • Consumers shrugged off Covid concerns as food service sales were unchanged.

Q&A On Methodology

Retail Sales vs Econoday Expectations

  • Total: -0.8% Expected vs 0.7% Reported
  • Ex-Vehicles: -0.1% Expected vs 1.8% Reported
  • Ex-Vehicles and Gas: -0.3% Expected vs 2.0% Reported

Sales were a blowout vs expectations even with the negative revisions. 

Advance Retail Sales Select Categories

Advance Retail Sales - Detail 2021-08
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Mote the impact of a chip shortage on autos sales.

Impact of Stimulus 

Advance Retail Sales - Detail 2 2021-08

The three rounds of economic stimulus, one under Trump and two under Biden stands out. 

Despite the unexpected strength in August, sales are lower than they were following the last round of stimulus.


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