High Prices Didn’t Deter Shoppers in September

Consumers spent more across a broad category of goods

People buying books in a local bookstores
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Things may be getting pricier and harder to find these days, but that didn’t stop consumers from ramping up their spending in September on just about everything retail.

People spent more on cars, groceries, gas, sporting and hobby equipment, musical instruments, restaurant meals, and a host of other things, according to the monthly retail sales report from the Census Bureau. In fact, out of the 15 major categories tracked by the Census, the only ones that fell were personal health stores and  appliance and electronics stores, which were beset by high prices and delivery delays. Overall, sales rose 0.7% from the previous month, surprising some economists who expected a decline and making for a 13.9% increase compared with September 2020.

The reason for the spending was twofold, economists said: People were buying more as higher wages and extra savings coincided with a downshift in the spread of the delta variant of  COVID-19, and they were also paying more for what they bought as prices continued to go up, especially for gas and automobiles. 

The question now is whether the spending spree can continue. Shoppers are finding that many items are out of stock, largely because of supply chain problems, and you can’t buy what you can’t find. You also can’t dine out if there’s no one to cook and serve your food, and many businesses, especially restaurants, are having trouble keeping and hiring workers. 

“Goods loaded on ships parked offshore due to clogged ports aren't sitting on store shelves,”  said Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, in a commentary, and they’re not making it into shoppers’ carts, either. 

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