Retail Sales Take a Dip in October

For six straight months, Americans weren’t shy about spending.

That streak ended in October, when retail sales declined 0.1%, according to statistics released by the Commerce Department earlier this week.

The Commerce Department report showed spending declining last month after a 0.9% jump in September. Experts said the October decline was driven by lower prices for gas and cars, according to an Associated Press report.

The figures reflect a slowdown in consumers’ willingness to spend after a blowout summer, the AP reported. Consumer spending jumped in the July-September quarter, but economists forecast it will slow in the final three months of the year, as credit card debt – and delinquencies – rise and average savings fall.

“The October retail sales report was stronger than expectations, but confirmed a slowdown in consumption,” Ellen Zentner, chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley, wrote in a note to clients, according to the AP.

Most retail categories reported a drop in sales, including gas stations and auto dealers, which partly reflected price declines last month in both categories. Sales at furniture stores fell 2%, and general merchandise sales – a category that includes large retailers such as WalMart and Target – dropped 0.2%. Sales at clothing stores were unchanged, the AP reported.

Online spending climbed 0.2% last month, according to the Commerce Department report. Sales at electronics and appliance stores rose 0.6% and grocery store sales moved up 0.7%. Restaurants and bars reported a 0.3% sales increase, though that was much lower than September’s 1.6% gain.

The figures aren’t adjusted for inflation, but the price of manufactured goods ticked down last month and overall inflation was flat.

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Brad Kadrich
Brad Kadrich is an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years’ experience, most recently as an editor/content coach for the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers and Hometown Life, managing 10 newspapers in Wayne and Oakland counties. He was born in Detroit, grew up in Warren and spent 15 years in the U.S. Air Force, primarily producing base newspapers and running media and community relations operations.