While dipping slightly from September levels and a touch behind overall retail performance, October sales at furniture and home furnishings store sales kept gaining ground in year-over-year comparisons.

According to advance estimates from the Department of Commerce’s monthly report on retail sales, furniture and home furnishings store sales, adjusted for seasonal variation and trading day differences, rose 5.2% in October to $10.4 billion compared with the same month last year. While off 0.4% from September levels, sales have grown 5.3% from August through October, slightly ahead at overall retail sales increases of 5.1% for the same three-month period.

The slight dip in furniture and home furnishings sales in October could be attributable to no major holiday sales periods to compare with the important Labor Day weekend in September. The year-over-year growth reflect ongoing consumer demand in the category and interest in home-related projects, also illustrated in double-digit growth in building material and gardening equipment.

Year-to-date, home furnishings and furniture sales of $89.1 billion were 7.2% less than January-October in 2019. That’s still an improvement compared with September, when that month’s year-to-date total of $78.4 billion lagged 8.8% behind performance through 2019’s first nine months.

Adjusted October retail sales across all categories of $553.3 billion were up 0.3% from September and 5.7% above October 2019. Retail trade rose 0.3% from September and 8.5% compared with October last year. Non-store retailers were up 29.1% from October 2019, while building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were up 19.5% from last October.

Other categories gaining by double digits in October-to-October comparisons included sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments and bookstores at 12.5% growth; food and beverage stores, 10.3%; and motor vehicle and parts dealers, up 10.7%.

Retail categories that lost ground comparing October 2020 to the same month last year included gasoline stations, down 14.6%; clothing and clothing accessories, off 12.6%; and electronics and appliances, down 3.9% compared with October 2019.

The DOC’s advance estimates are based on a sub-sample of the U.S. Census Bureau’s full retail and food services sample. A stratified random sampling method is used to select approximately 5,500 retail and food services firms whose sales are then weighted and benchmarked to represent the complete universe of more than 3 million retail and food services firms.

I’m Powell Slaughter, senior editor at Furniture/Today. I returned to the publication in January 2015 after nine years of writing about furniture retail strategies and best practices at a monthly magazine focusing on home furnishings retail operations. Prior to that, I spent 10 years with F/T covering wood furniture, the last five of those as case goods editor. Upon my return to F/T, I developed coverage of the logistical and service aspects of the furniture industry as well as following the occasional, home office and home entertainment categories. In April 2018 I took over the upholstery category, with responsibility for coverage of the fabric and leather stationary and motion upholstery, recliners and massage chair categories.

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