Although the topline retail numbers have been lackluster in recent months, the positive trends in restaurant sales indicate consumers haven’t completely closed up their pocketbooks, but instead appear to be picking their spots more carefully, according to the NRA’s Chief Economist Bruce Grindy. His Economist’s Notebook commentary and analysis appears regularly on Restaurant.org and Restaurant TrendMapper.
Restaurants have been one of the consistent bright spots during a period of lackluster consumer spending in recent months, according to an analysis of preliminary data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Eating and drinking place sales totaled $53.0 billion on a seasonally-adjusted basis in November, which represented a strong 0.7 percent increase over October’s sales volume of $52.6 billion.
November marked the 10th consecutive month of restaurant sales growth, with monthly gains not falling below 0.3 percent. As a result of the steady upward trajectory in recent months, November’s sales volume of $53.0 billion stood more than $2.6 billion above January’s seasonally-adjusted volume – an increase of 5.2 percent.
In contrast, total retail spending has been uneven throughout 2015. After registering a few solid gains during the first half of the year, total retail sales stalled in recent months. Excluding eating and drinking places, total retail spending rose less than 0.1 percent during the last four months combined. During the same four-month period, restaurant sales were up 1.8 percent.
While the topline retail numbers are weak, the positive trends in restaurant sales indicate consumers haven’t completely closed up their pocketbooks, but instead appear to be picking their spots more carefully.