Retail sales unexpectedly rise as workers return to office

Retail sales rose 0.7% in September

Consumer spending unexpectedly rose in September as retailers benefitted from back-to-school shopping and more workers returning to the office.

Retail sales, a measure of spending at restaurants, stores and online, last month rose 0.7% to $625.4 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting a 0.2% decline. The reading was 14.9% above a year-ago levels. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
WMT WALMART, INC. 135.47 -1.67 -1.22%
TGT TARGET CORP. 245.50 +5.11 +2.13%
AMZN AMAZON.COM, INC. 3,434.99 -2.37 -0.07%

August's reading was revised up to a 0.9% gain from the previous print of a 0.7% increase.

"People who are back to working in a downtown office may be taking more shopping trips on their lunch break or after work," said Natalie Kotlyar, national leader of BDO’s retail and consumer products practice. "With school back in session and many teens vaccinated, parents may also be more comfortable allowing their teens to take shopping trips to the mall."

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
COST COSTCO WHOLESALE CORP. 534.25 +8.74 +1.66%
BJS n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.


Gasoline stations saw a 1.6% month-over-month increase and were 38.2% above year-ago levels. Food services and drinking places, meanwhile, booked a 3.7% rise last month and jumped 29.5% from last year. 

Retail sales excluding autos jumped 0.8% month over month compared with the 0.2% decline that was anticipated. Ex autos, retail sales rose 2% in August.