Retail sales slide signals weak consumer demand

October 15, 2014, 1:02 PM UTC
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U.S. retail sales slid a worse-than-expected 0.3% in September from the prior month, as auto sales eased and declining gasoline prices hurt sales at the pump.

The Commerce Department reported retail and food services sales for September, adjusted for seasonal variations and holidays but not price changes, were $442.7 billion, a decline of 0.3% from the prior month. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had projected a 0.1% drop.

The September decline suggests Americans are still reluctant to splurge on consumer goods.

Gasoline stations posted a 0.8% drop on a sequential basis, hurt by weaker prices at the pump. The retail price of gasoline for the average American has dropped nearly 15% since late June to an average of $3.17 a gallon, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited data from

Meanwhile, motor vehicle and parts dealers’ sales also dropped 0.8%, while clothing and clothing accessories stores sales were down 1.2%. Both of those sequential declines aren’t exactly a surprise, as the auto industry historically sells more vehicles in August and apparel makers also do better then, when the key Back-to-School season has kicked into high gear.

There were a few pockets of notable growth. Electronics and appliance sales leapt 3.4% (remember, Apple reported record first-weekend iPhone sales in September), and health and personal care sales were up 0.3%.

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