Retail sales edged slightly down in May from last month, but were still well above last year’s levels.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported today that retail and food service sales in May 2022 totaled $672.9 billion, marking a seasonally adjusted 0.3% decrease from the previous month and a 8.1% leap from May 2021.
The bureau also amended its numbers for April sales to reflect a total of $674.7 billion, or a 0.7% increase from March.
Within retail, consumer spending in May dropped 0.4% from April but was up 6.9% over last May. Sales at gasoline stations spiked 43.2% over last year, while food services and drinking sales were up 17.5% from last year.
Clothing and clothing accessories sales increased 0.1% from April and 6.1% compared with May 2021.
The May spending numbers are not adjusted for inflation, which explains the massive 43.2% year-over year gain in gasoline station sales.
This growth in spending comes amid persisting high levels of inflation. Consumer prices rose by 8.6% compared to a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly report. This number was up from 8.3% growth in April and from the 8.5% growth in March and represented the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981.
Consumers were more concerned about mounting inflation pressures in May, which could account for the slight month over month dip in retail sales. According to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data, median inflation expectations for the year ahead increased from 6.3% to 6.6% in May, up 0.3% from April. This marks the highest recorded rate of survey since June 2013, tied with March.
At the same time, more consumers are turning to secondhand shopping options amid price increases. The U.S. secondhand market is expected to more than double by 2026, hitting $82 billion, according to a recent report from ThredUp and GlobalData. Overall, resale is expected to grow 16x faster than the retail clothing sector in the U.S. by 2026.