Nationwide retail sales rose by a record 17.7% from April to May, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The total sales volume for the month was $485.5 billion.
May’s upswing followed two consecutive months of declines as a result of economic tumult brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic: a record 14.7% plummet in April and an 8.2% drop in March. On a year-over-year basis, May’s retail sales were down by 6%.
Within the different retail sectors, the greatest increases in month-over-month sales included clothing stores (up 188%), home furnishing stores (90%), and stores selling sporting goods, books, music and hobby items (88%). Restaurants and bars saw a 29% uptick while auto dealers recorded a 40% increase and gas stations saw their sales up by 13% from April to May.
In an interview on CNBC, National Retail Federation CEO Matthew Shay credited the increased sales on a “significant pent-up demand” supported by many consumers with spending cash provided via government stimulus checks and unemployment benefits. But he warned not every retailer will benefit from this jolt in spending.
“The big question will be what happens to those small, independent, those midsize companies,” he said. “Can we get the rest of the economy moving quickly enough that we can bring the small businesses along?”