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Where retail sales have been booming

Sporting goods, home project supplies, and groceries are way up

We recently discussed how some areas in the retail sales sector have suffered dramatic declines during the pandemic. Today, we highlight three areas where sales have actually been booming.

FRED just added monthly state retail sales data from the Census Bureau, and we can enlist the help of GeoFRED to show the details. In the first map, we see that sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores have been doing remarkably well across the nation. From July 2019 to July 2020, national sales increased 18.7%, with a range of 7.7% to 29.1% across states. People have curtailed some activities during the pandemic, but they added new ones to spend their time on.

The second map shows building material and garden equipment stores, and it looks like people have ramped up their home projects. Nationwide, these sales increased 16.3%, with a range of 12.6% to 21.1% across almost all states, which is a remarkably tight spread. (We exclude our home state of Missouri, which had only a 4.6% increase.)

The third bright spot we focus on here is food and beverage stores. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may have expected this, since we’ve discussed how restaurant and bar sales have diminished as people have switched to consuming their food and drink at home. The map below shows how this shift has differed across states: from a 4.4% increase to a whooping 23.3% increase, which is remarkable for basic commodities. (One notable exception is a decline in Vermont.) Nationally, sales of food and beverages went up 13%. People may not have consumed much more than usual, but they did it differently—at home.

How these maps were created: A good starting point is the release table for monthly state retail sales. Click on a state series and then navigate below the graph to the related material, which includes a link to the GeoFRED map. (Or you could click on “View Map” on the graph and then “Edit Map”). Zoom-in or -out as you wish.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

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