October 15, 2010, 4:21 PM

Retail sales up 6.7% through September

U.S. consumers spent $2.65 trillion in the first nine months of the year.

Allison Enright

Editor

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Total U.S. retail spending from January through September was up 6.7% from the same time a year ago, according to U.S. Commerce Department monthly retail trade report data released today. Consumers spent $2.65 trillion in the first nine months of 2010, excluding automobile sales.

Seasonally adjusted advance monthly sales data for September also released today show U.S. consumers spent $304.34 billion during the month, up 5.4% from a year ago and up 0.4% from August 2010. Monthly sales have increased month to month since July. The Commerce Department reports only total sales in its monthly reports and breaks out online sales each quarter.

“After three years of economic strain, three consecutive months of growth is good news. But given the size of the challenges the economy continues to face, retailers remain focused on appealing to the budget-conscious consumer,” says Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

Home improvement and garden retailers had the strongest September gains among all tracked categories, excluding auto sales. Home improvement and garden retailers saw adjusted sales increase 7.3% from a year ago and 0.6% from August. Electronics and appliance retailers also saw gains in September. Sales were up 5.6% from a year ago and 1.5% from August. Apparel retailers saw sales decline 0.2% in September from August, but their sales were still up 3.2% from a year ago after a strong back-to-school season.  

Reports released earlier this month indicate online retailers posted improved September sales, too. E-commerce sales grew 7.8% in September from a year ago, according to MasterCard Advisors, a consulting arm to payment network MasterCard Inc. The U.S. Commerce Department will release e-commerce sales for third quarter next month.

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