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NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said consumers have 'retained their ability to spend.' 

Retail sales in May were up nearly across the board compared to April, according to data from the National Retail Federation’s Retail Monitor and CNBC. Online and total sales increased both year over year and month over month in May, marking improvement over April.

The Retail Monitor said it uses anonymized credit and debit card purchase data that Affinity Solutions compiles, and that the data does not require monthly or annual revision.


“Consumers have clearly retained their ability to spend and are driving solid economic growth,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said.

NRF excludes automobile and gasoline sales from its total retail sales figure. Based on that, total sales grew 1.35% month over month, as well as 3.03% year over year, according to the Retail Monitor. That compares with a 0.26% month-over-month increase and a 0.6% year-over-year drop in April.


Furthermore, core retail sales (which exclude restaurants in addition to automobiles and gasoline), increased 1.2% in May over April. May core retail sales also increased 2.88% year over year, according to the Retail Monitor.

Total retail sales increased 2.13% year over year for the period from Jan. 1 through May 31, the Retail Monitor reported. It said the month-over-month gains were the highest since April 2023, when total sales increased 1.13% and core sales 1.27%.

Census Bureau data on May sales

The U.S. Census Bureau announced June 18 that sales grew in May 2024 when compared to both April 2024 and May 2023. May retail sales totaled $703.1 billion, according to the Census Bureau. That’s 0.1% month-over-month growth, as well as 2.3% year over year, it said.


The Bureau’s estimates reflect U.S. retail and food-service sales, adjusted for seasonal variation, holiday, and trading-day differences. It does not adjust the figures for price changes, it said.

Retail sales, specifically, grew 0.2% month over month in May. They also grew 2.0% over May 2023, the Census Bureau said. Meanwhile, May nonstore retail sales (which online retail largely comprises) saw 6.8% year-over-year growth.

Furthermore, total sales from March 2024 through May 2024 increased 2.9% over the same period in 2023.

“May’s retail sales give us a snapshot of a reasonably healthy consumer even though spending growth is fluctuating somewhat,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement, responding to the Census Bureau’s data.


May online sales grow

Online and other nonstore sales in May grew 2.09% over April. At the same time, May online sales grew 17.91% year over year.

“Inflation remains stubborn but is almost entirely in services rather than retail goods,” Shay said. “May’s year-over-year gains are in line with what we saw earlier this year, and the month-over-month increases are the largest in more than a year. We believe this underscores that April’s moderation was an outlier.”

Sales grew month over month in all but three categories.

  • May online and other non-store sales (grew 2.09% month over month).
  • Health and personal care stores (up 1.29%)
  • Clothing and accessories stores (up 1.44%)
  • General merchandise stores (up 1.31%)
  • Grocery and beverage stores (up 1.97%)
  • Sporting goods, hobby, music and book stores (up 1.04%)
  • Building and garden supply stores (down 0.6% month over month)
  • Electronics and appliance stores (down 0.05%)
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores (down 0.14%)

Sales grew year over year in most categories.

  • May online and other non-store sales (17.91% increase year over year)
  • Health and personal care stores (up 6.86%)
  • Clothing and accessories stores (up 6.24%)
  • General merchandise stores (up 4.89%)
  • Grocery and beverage stores (up 2.53%)
  • Building and garden supply stores (down 0.53% year over year)
  • Sporting goods, hobby, music and book stores (down 0.71%)
  • Electronics and appliance stores (down 0.87%)
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores (down 3.21%)

Here’s last month’s update on nonstore sales.

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