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Logistics business: September retail sales show slight gains

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
October 18, 2010

September retail sales showed slight gains, according to data released by the United States Department of Commerce and the National Retail Federation (NRF).

September retail sales, which include non-general merchandise like automobiles, gasoline, and restaurants, at $367.7 billion, were up 0.6 percent from August and up 7.3 percent year-over-year, according to the Department of Commerce. Commerce added that total retail sales from through July through September of this year were up a revised 5.7 percent year-over-year from an earlier estimate of 0.4 percent.

The NRF reported that September retail sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) increased 0.4 percent seasonally-adjusted over August and 4.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“September retail sales show that the economy is continuing to grow, even though it remains at a subpar pace,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz in a statement. “Given the stubbornly high unemployment and other challenges that families are facing today, these increases are still quite impressive.”

As LM has reported, the first half of 2010 showed a fair amount of promise in terms of sustained economic growth. The second half, so far, has been a different story, with unemployment at 9.6 percent, sluggish consumer spending, and declining—or stagnant— volumes in some modes of freight transportation. But even with signs of volumes weakening, they still remain above dismal 2009 levels. One driver for this is due to manufacturers and retailers slowly building up inventories after deliberately keeping them low for months to better match up with low demand levels during the recession.

And a separate report from Commerce last week said that business inventories were up 0.6 percent in August from July and up 4.7 percent from August 2009.  The report also stated that inventory sales were up 0.1 percent in August from the prior month and were up 8.2 percent year-over-year. If this trend continues, it could bode well for freight transportation carriers in the coming months ahead.

Some other somewhat encouraging signs include still healthy data coming from the Institute of Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index and healthy port volume on the import front, especially from West Coast ports.

“We are seeing retail sales picking up somewhat, with retailers currently having [sufficient] inventory for sales….and are trying to empty out the inventory they brought in earlier in the year,” said Ben Hackett, president of London-based Hackett Associates in a recent interview.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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