Since When Has Anyone Cared About Monthly Retail Sales?

by MR Magazine Staff

When the U.S. Commerce Department released retail sales results for January, it reported that sales were down 0.3% compared to December, when economists had forecasted that sales would be up 0.2%. This, obviously, made for some clickbaity headlines about “biggest declines” and “lousy sales” in January. This is odd, considering how everyone was so happy just one month ago that the holiday season was so fantastic. What gives? First of all, retail as a category covers an enormous amount of products, which all have different seasonality. Most people buy a TV maybe one to two times per decade, while they buy a loaf of bread one to two times per week. Retail sales, the way the Commerce Department measures it, also includes cars and different kinds of food sales as well. You can exclude those, but when reporting top-line results, everything is thrown in together. That said, retail is still very much a seasonal business. The ten biggest sales days of the year happen in November and December. Even grocery retailers experience a spike in sales during the all-important holidays, as consumers buy food to entertain, as gifts, and for their own special occasion meals. During other times of the year, the placement of a tax holiday can have a big impact on a retailer’s reported sales results. So you have to look closely at the results when numbers rise or fall, to make sure you’re really comparing apples to apples. Read more at Forbes.