The US Census Bureau reported this morning that retail sales in May fell by -0.2% month-over-month. Compared with May 2011, however, retail sales rose by 5.3%. For the three-month period of March through May, retail sales were 5.7% higher in 2012 than in 2011.
Excluding auto and auto parts sales, retail sales in May fell -0.4% month-over-month but rose 4.3% year-over-year. Sales of cars and auto parts were up 10% year-over-year, second only to nonstore retailers, which saw sales growth of 12.4%. Nonstore retailers also posted the best month-over-month gain — 1.3%. The Census Bureau does not identify sales by vendor, but Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), and Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) are likely suspects because these three have the largest online presence.
The greatest decline in month-over-month sales came at gasoline stations, down -2.2%, although sales rose 0.6% year-over-year due to higher gasoline prices this year. Building material and garden equipment sales fell -1.7% from April, but rose 5.3% on an annual basis. The drop in gasoline sales is consistent with other data on US energy consumption, and the drop in building materials sales is likely due to more sales being pulled forward due to the warm weather this past winter. Both The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD) and Lowe’s Companies Inc. (NYSE: LOW) also faced more competition from new home sales rather than remodeling projects.