New figures from the U.S. Commerce Department show that the retail industry last year experienced its worst sales since 2009.
Bloomberg shared figures on Friday (Jan. 15) indicating that 2015 closed out with a 0.1 percent drop in retail sales during the month of December (following a 0.4 increase in November) and that, overall, retail purchases went up 2.1 percent for the year, which, the outlet notes, was the smallest increase for all areas of the economy.
With soft numbers in areas such as electronics, apparel and groceries, the Bloomberg story posits that the money American consumers saved on lower fuel prices in 2015 were, to a large degree, put into savings, rather than being spent on holiday shopping. Furthermore, theorizes the outlet, this consumer behavior may have been influenced by low rates of wage increases that could indicate that retail sales will struggle to bounce back in 2016.
“There isn’t anything encouraging in this [U.S. Commerce Department] report,” Thomas Simons, a money market economist at Jefferies Group LLC in New York, told Bloomberg. “It’s very disappointing. The labor market is in good shape, which suggests the outlook is probably better than this.”
Including the aforementioned, the retail sales report showed a decline in consumer demand for six of 13 major categories that were analyzed by the Commerce Department between November and December; Bloomberg highlights a 1 percent drop at general merchandise stores, which was the largest since February.
The report, the outlet goes on to share, showed a 0.9 percent drop at clothing chains and a 0.2 percent decline at electronics stores in 2015.
One sales category that didn’t see much change for the year, adds Bloomberg, was that of automobile dealers.
Regarding the decline in clothing sales, unusually warm weather — the outlet states that 2015 saw the warmest December on record for the contiguous United Sates, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — was likely a contributing factor.