Superstorm Sandy Plus Fiscal Cliff Equals Weak Retail Sales

The National Retail Federation said today that low October retail sales figures were down due to Superstorm Sandy and the impending fiscal cliff.

According to figures released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce, October retail sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) decreased 0.3% seasonally adjusted from September. However, retail sales did increase 3.9% unadjusted year-over-year.

NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a press release that Superstorm Sandy will have short-term and long-term reverberations on the economy, and will continue to impact consumer spending and retail sales over the coming months in the hardest-hit areas.

But NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said in the same press release that the looming fiscal cliff is a larger threat to the overall economy, and that it will impact Americans across the country.

“The automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year may have more of an impact on business confidence and consumer spending than any other issue,” Shay said in the release. “It’s imperative that policymakers address the looming fiscal cliff now to give consumers some certainty heading into the holiday shopping season.”

Here’s a look at how October retail sales broke down by product segment:

· Clothing and clothing accessories stores’ sales decreased 0.1% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet increased 4.2% unadjusted year-over-year.

· Electronics and appliance stores’ sales decreased 1.0% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 4.2% unadjusted year-over-year.

· Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales decreased 0.6% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet increased 7.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

· General merchandise stores’ sales increased 0.2% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet decreased 1.1% unadjusted year-over-year.

· Health and personal care stores’ sales increased 0.3% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet increased 2.1% unadjusted year-over-year.

· Nonstore retailers’ sales decreased 1.8% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet increased 12.6% unadjusted year-over-year.

· Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 0.5% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 5.4% unadjusted year-over-year.