A cargo ship is moored in the Port of Long Beach while cranes retrieve cargo containers from the ship

Port of Long Beach. Photo: Richard H Grant / Shutterstock.com

Holiday Retail Sales Off to a Strong Start in U.S.

Mike Schuler
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November 17, 2022

Retail sales grew again in October as consumers set aside concerns about inflation and got a jump start on the holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.

Strong consumer demand in the U.S. was the main driver of record imports throughout the pandemic, contributing to sky-rocketing container freight rates. This latest data shows that high consumer spending levels are sustaining even as the container shipping market returns to normal.

“October retail sales data confirms that consumers continue to stretch their dollars on household priorities, including gifts for family and loved ones this holiday season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “With a strong labor market and excess savings, we are expecting a solid five-day holiday shopping weekend, and retailers are prepared to meet their customers with the right inventory, competitive prices and great experiences. We are keeping a close eye on the railway labor negotiations and urge Congress to do everything in its power to avoid a labor strike this holiday season.”

The U.S. Census Bureau said overall retail sales in October were up 1.3% from September and up 8.3% year over year. In September, sales were flat month over month but up 8.6% year over year.

NRF’s calculation of retail sales – which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail – showed October was up 0.7% from September and up 6.5% unadjusted year over year. In September, sales were up 0.5% month over month and up 7.9% year over year.

NRF’s numbers were up 7.7% unadjusted year over year on a three-month moving average as of October. Sales were up 7.5% year over year for the first 10 months of the year, keeping results on track with NRF’s forecast that 2022 retail sales will grow between 6% and 8% over 2021’s record.

“October’s performance is a strong foothold as we go into the holiday season,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Spending has gradually slowed but remains solid. Consumers continue to show resiliency despite elevated inflation, rising borrowing costs and widespread macroeconomic uncertainties. With employment and wages growing and shoppers accessing accumulated savings, we expect the trend to continue. Early holiday deals that enticed customers appear to underly the October numbers and more promotions will be seen in November and December, which are historically the big holiday shopping months.”

Meanwhile, NRF data shows that retail imports through the nation’s top container ports have continued to slow from records set earlier this year, with retailers well stocked for the holidays. The NRF is predicting that retail imports will continue to slow “significantly” over the remainder of the year, but 2022 cargo volumes should still see a net gain over 2021’s record as first half volumes were up 5.5 percent compared to last year.

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