Insights from the 10/10/23 Commercial Pulse Report – Retail Sales Outlook

Published: October 9, 2023 by Marsha Silverman

The labor market remains robust with low unemployment (3.8%) and 366K new jobs created in September. Job openings in the U.S. were 9.6MM as of the end of August, an increase of 690K or 5.8% since July. Retail sales in August had a month-over month increase for the fifth consecutive month.

As we head into the holiday shopping season, despite headlines of large retailers struggling, the retail industry appears poised for success. It is likely that those retail businesses that survived the difficulties of the pandemic are the most financially sound and are driving the statistics. Over the past year, retailers are seeking less credit and taking on less debt than the previous few years. Despite inflation, consumers are still spending, and retailers are benefitting.

Commercial delinquencies have been increasing over the past year. Delinquencies within the retail sector were trending above overall commercial delinquencies until just a few months ago when retailers exhibited lower rates than overall. These are all positive signs heading into the holiday shopping season which tends to make or break a retailer’s year.

The September labor report was stronger than expected. Unemployment remained low at 3.8% and 366K new jobs were created which was the highest amount since January. In addition, the jobs created in July and August were revised upward significantly.

What I am watching:

With the labor market still tight, it will be interesting to see if the retail sector will be able to staff accordingly to support the holiday crunch. If staffing is difficult, retail stores may struggle to keep up with demand.

Now that the student loan moratorium has ended, it will be important to monitor the impact to consumer spend. The increased expense of the student loan monthly payments will likely leave individuals with less discretionary income to spend on retail purchases. In addition, business owners who have student loans will have less money to invest in their business

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