Saturday, November 26, 2011

December Retail Sales

Back in 2009 I posted data on percent change in retail sales, December to December. Back then the last hard data point was for 2008, showing a huge dip. You can still see that post on the old LaMarotte (link). I thought I would update the graphic. The source for it is a tabulation by the Bureau of the Census (link).

The updated graphic, together with a projection (in red) showing what might happen next month is below:

The graphed data show changes in total retail sales, December to December, from 1992 through 2010. The value for 2011 is a projection of the trend shown earlier. We begin in 1992; the change in that year, therefore is zero; but for all other years, I show the change from the previous December. To this I have added a trend line, courtesy of Microsoft Excel. The conclusion is that growth in retail December to December is definitely trending down, but this down-trend is entirely due to the severity of recessions. Just to check on this, I tried making the 2007-2008 recession milder; thus I assumed that the change, 2007 to 2008, would be a mild growth, about 3 percent—rather then the nearly 13 percent dip. In that case the trend of this series is flat for all practical purposes. The illustration of that is inserted as a smaller graphic on the left; 2008 is “corrected,” and I’ve only plotted through 2010, thus only using actual data.

Let’s face it. December is the nation’s big shopping month. This pattern only weakens when the economy is really diving into the sand, as it did in 2008. In this period two recessions took place: March to November in 2001 and December 2007 through June 2009. The public felt both of these coming—and curbed its spending. But the last one was severe, and people really sat on their wallets.

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