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Shopping lines: The evolution of retail in the U.S.


When it comes to shopping, Americans have many options: the corner store, the supermarket, the specialty store, the “big box,” online, and more. Above, we committed a graphing sin by displaying 12 different series in a single graph to show how retail trade has evolved across various categories.

Signs can be seen over the past two and a half decades: First, while food and beverage stores (supermarkets, convenience stores) were major destinations in the past, they have been joined by general merchandise stores, typically large suburban big box stores. A very volatile bunch are the gasoline stations, which sell mostly one commodity with a very variable price. Finally, one category seems to be steadily overtaking the others: mail-order and online shops (the line in black).

How this graph was created: Search for the Advance Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services release and select the series you want to display. The release offers more series than the 12 we chose, but 12 is the maximum that can be shown on one FRED graph. In fact, with so many series, you need to make the graph larger by dragging the red marker in the bottom right corner of the graph. We chose the seasonally adjusted series and made the nonstore retail series black.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann

View on FRED, series used in this post: RSBMGESD, RSCCAS, RSDBS, RSEAS, RSFHFS, RSFSDP, RSGASS, RSGMS, RSHPCS, RSMSR, RSNSR, RSSGHBMS


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