U.S. Retail Sales Slow Amid Supply Chain Disruptions, Delta Variant Spread, NRF Says

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The retail landscape could prove interesting this fall.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), U.S. retail sales slowed in July as the impact of the global supply chain disruptions paired with a shift in consumer spending and the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant began to affect retail.

“July retail sales showed a slight deceleration in spending, but nothing to derail our outlook for a record year,” says NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Though the delta variant is presenting health challenges while supply chain disruptions along with unfilled job openings are presenting business challenges, the consumer and broader economy continue to display steady strength aided by advanced tax credit payments and strong gains in the labor market and personal incomes. We remain optimistic that the strength of the American consumer and ingenuity of the retail industry will produce continued growth heading into the fall. We encourage people to get vaccinated as soon as possible to stop the spread of the virus and to keep our economy growing.”

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NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz notes that the move of Amazon Prime Day to June may have had some impact on July sales, but overall, the U.S. consumer tends to be flush with cash as we head into back-to-school season and the holidays. But, price increases and dwindling inventory is a concern. “If retailers could find more inventory, they could sell it,” Kleinhenz says. “Going forward, consumers are a bit fearful again as we approach another possible wave of COVID-19 infections, but they’ve learned to live with the virus and shopping continues. The delta variant could impact local markets, especially where vaccination rates are low, but doesn’t appear likely to show up in the national data.”

Data from both the U.S. Census Bureau and the NRF — which use differing methodology — both point to a 1.1% decrease for July when seasonally adjusted from June. For the first seven months of the year, NRF calculations point to a 15.5% increase over 2020.

Earlier this month, the NRF’s Global Port Tracker reported that record shipping numbers are expected for late August as retailers shift from back-to-school to holiday assortments.

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.