Retail Sales Fell 1.3% in May

After shoppers returned to stores in droves in early spring 2021, retail sales dipped 1.3% in May.
Shopping mall

That’s according to the latest report from the Census Bureau, which found retail sales reached $620.2 billion in May. By comparison, sales were $628.7 billion in April.

However, on a year-over-year basis, retail sales were up 28.1% for the month. Additionally, total sales from March 2021 to May 2021 were up 36.2% from the same period in 2020. 

The figures reveal that the retail industry is still working up to a full recovery, though the dip in sales could reflect some seasonal changes prior to the back-to-school shopping season in the summer. And there are additional signs retail is rebounding. Foot traffic to malls has continued to rise over the last few months, and sales over the Memorial Day holiday weekend showed marked improvements for a number of retailers.

The National Retail Federation also expects retail sales to continue booming throughout the rest of 2021. The association recently upgraded its 2021 full-year forecast with the expectation that retail sales will grow between 10.5% and 13.5% for the rest of 2021, reaching $4.44 trillion. NRF projects the economy, boosted by the national COVID-19 vaccination program rollout and federal stimulus, will continue improving.

“The economy and consumer spending have proven to be much more resilient than initially forecasted,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement June 9. “The combination of vaccine distribution, fiscal stimulus and private-sector ingenuity have put millions of Americans back to work. While there are downside risks related to worker shortages, an overheating economy, tax increases and over-regulation, overall households are healthier, and consumers are demonstrating their ability and willingness to spend. The pandemic was a reminder how essential small, mid-size and large retailers are to the everyday lives of Americans in communities nationwide.”

The latest retail sales figures also come as inflation has reached a new recent high, as prices rose 5% in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Rising prices may have pressured some shoppers to spend less during the month.