Retail Sales Plummet as Inflation Bites, Stores Run Low on Goods

Retail sales are plummeting in the run-up to Christmas as stores struggle with supply chain issues and shoppers feel the bite of skyrocketing inflation.

The slow-down was revealed in a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The report shows a deceleration in retail sales as shoppers are impacted by inflation and a lack of goods. 

The Census Bureau announced on Wednesday advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for November.

It reveals an increase of 0.3%, seasonally-adjusted, which was less than last month’s growth in the consumer price index, which was at 0.8%.

It also showed a downward trend from October’s 1.8% growth in sales for retail and food services. 

The report also showed electronics stores sales down 4.6% in November from the month prior.

General merchandise stores sales also decreased 1.2%, and health and personal care stores went down 0.6%.

“If you look at the weakness in November sales, it looks more related to holiday shopping,” said Aditya Bhave, an economist for Bank of America, per The Wall Street Journal. 

“Some of that is going to be a reflection of prices, but the bigger story here is the change in the seasonal pattern,” with shoppers buying gifts earlier than during typical years.

Additionally, the Journal noted that “October’s gain in retail sales was the largest since March.”

While the numbers could be due in part to Americans doing their shopping earlier this year in anticipation of shortages and supply chain issues, inflation has heavily impacted Americans over the past few months. 

The report stated that gas station sales were up around 52% from last November, showing the struggle consumers have faced over the cost of fuel, which has potentially contributed to the lack of spending in other areas. 

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As the Journal reported: 

Stores that sell sporting goods, musical instruments and books saw sales increase by 1.3% in November, the same as the increase at food and beverage stores. Sales at gas stations were up 1.7% last month and are up 52% from a year earlier, in part reflecting higher prices at the pump.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrated the rising inflation being felt across the country.

The department revealed that consumer price inflation in the United States has reached a rate of 6.8% — the largest year-over-year increase since June 1982, as well as the sixth straight month in which inflation remained above 5%.

As summarized by CNBC, the following are some of the largest consumer prices jumps between November 2020 and November 2021:

  • Gas — 58.1%
  • Used vehicles — 31.4%
  • Hotels — 25.5%
  • Meat, poultry, and fish — 13.1%
  • Furniture and bedding — 11.8%
  • New vehicles — 11.1%
  • Domestic services — 10.2%
  • Jewelry — 6.7%
  • Electricity — 6.5%
  • Food — 6.1%
  • Apparel — 5%
  • Milk — 4.6%
  • Fruits and vegetables — 4%

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki discussed the skyrocketing prices of meat in the country and received pushback for her suggestion about what might be causing the spike.

The price index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs has swelled 12.8% over the past year.

For certain products, the increase is even more pronounced.

The price of beef has soared in price 20.9% since December 2020, according to Department of Labor data

“The president, the secretary of Agriculture have both spoken to what we’ve seen as the greed of meat conglomerates,” Psaki said.

“That is an area where when people go to the grocery store [and] are trying to buy a pound of meat, two pounds of meat, ten pounds of meat, the prices are higher.”

“That is, in his view and the view of our secretary of Agriculture, because of, you could call it corporate greed,” she added.

“You could call it jacking up prices during a pandemic.”

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By Nick R. Hamilton

Nick has a broad background in journalism, business, and technology. He covers news on cryptocurrency, traditional assets, and economic markets.

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