The holiday shopping season remains a bit of a wild card for forecasters as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in many parts of the country.
One bright note is that the messaging to consumers that shopping early to avoid crowds may have been received as October U.S. retail sales grew for the sixth month in a row, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
“We are encouraged by another positive retail sales number for October …. consumers have proven their resilience and willingness to spend as we head into the heart of the holiday season and retailers continue to demonstrate their commitment and ability to ensure safe shopping environments for their customers and their associates, with deep discounts, robust inventory, and great experiences whether in-store or online,” says NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.
According to NRF data, U.S. retail sales rose 10.6% in October versus the same period last year. Sales for the first 10 months of the year spiked 6.4% over the first 10 months of last year.
The U.S. Census Bureau — which uses a different methodology to calculate its data — also reported an increase of 5.7% in October versus last year.
“Early holiday shopping appears to have supported October’s increase in sales,” says NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “The rise in COVID-19 cases continues to be a factor that weighs on consumer perceptions, sentiment, and spending and there could be retrenchment if we cannot thwart this latest wave. Nonetheless, retailers are well prepared to safely fulfill holiday shopping lists, and the October results suggest so far, so good.”
NRF believes that October gains were driven by the shift of Amazon Prime Day and similar promotions to October from July.