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To every thing, there is a season… Playing with retail data


FRED recently added a lot of new data from the U.S. retail sector—just in time for the holidays. So let’s take this opportunity to play a little game. The release table for monthly retail sales shows plenty of subsectors involved in retail trade. Because these series are not seasonally adjusted, they may show some large seasonal factors at work. The game is to try to predict what the seasonal factors for each sector will look like before displaying the graph for that sector. The graph above reveals the seasonality for three sectors: Sales of office supplies peak in August with the return to school. Sales of gifts and novelties peak in December as people scramble to fill Christmas stockings. And sales of used merchandise bottom out at the start of the year for reasons that escape us. Hint: To identify the months more easily on the graph, reduce the sample period to a few years and hover over the lines to identify the months.

How this graph was created: Go to the release table for monthly retail sales (not seasonally adjusted), check the series you want, and click on “Add to Graph.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: MRTSSM45321USN, MRTSSM45322USN, MRTSSM45330USN


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