Advance estimates of US retail and food services sales for May 2024 were up 0.1% to $703.1bn from the previous month and up 2.3% above May 2023. These were adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes.

Retail trade sales were up 0.2% from April 2024 and up 2% above last year, while nonstore retailers increased 6.8% from last year.

Clothing and clothing accessories stores saw retail sales jump from $25.76bn in April to $26.00bn in May. As for 2024 from January until May, the clothing and clothing accessories stores unadjusted retail numbers reached £117.4bn. These numbers include men’s clothing, women’s clothing, family clothing and shoe stores.

GlobalData’s retail analyst Neil Saunders highlighted that the arrival of summer weather and some good deals and discounts around Memorial Day helped to stimulate spending.

He added in apparel, shoppers are looking for “bargains and value” when they spend.

Saunders said there is no indication of a major consumer slump or of a dramatic retrenchment in expenditure: “Indeed, most households continue to spend at a steady pace, at least on an aggregate basis.”

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He stated: “This month, apparel stores led the way with a 4.0% increase in sales; a 2.9% increase in volume terms. Womenswear continues to outperform while menswear is a bit more sluggish, and footwear remains in the doldrums. Department stores, which usually languish at the bottom of the league table, saw modest growth of 0.7% in May.

“Most of this came from a better performance of apparel but, given the very discretionary nature of department store visits and buying, this is nonetheless a very positive signal of consumer resilience. Whether department stores can maintain this momentum remains to be seen, but we note many companies in the space are now making a concerted effort to improve the customer experience to help trading.”

May sales indicate a ‘reasonably’ healthy consumer

National Retail Federation (NRF)’s chief economist Jack Kleinhenz is of the view that May sales helped drive a “still-expanding” economy.

He explained: “May’s retail sales give us a snapshot of a reasonably healthy consumer even though spending growth is fluctuating somewhat. These numbers indicate that the economy continues to expand at a solid pace. Job gains have remained strong, generally supporting consumers’ ability and willingness to spend. Inflation pressure has fallen, especially for retail goods, but higher prices for services continue to weigh on the minds of households.”

May’s core retail sales as defined by NRF — based on the Census data but excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants — were up 0.3% seasonally adjusted month over month and up 2.9% unadjusted year over year.