The Commerce Department said that retail sales dropped 0.3 percent, the first decline since February and the sharpest since a 1-percent decrease in January 2016. Economists had expected sales to increase slightly in May after rising 0.4 percent in April.
Last month, furniture and home furnishings stores were up 0.4 percent from April. Clothing and clothing accessories stores saw a bump of 0.3 percent.
Sales fell 2.8 percent at electronics stores, the biggest such drop since March 2016. They fell 2.4 percent at gasoline stations and 1 percent at department stores, which have struggled with competition from online retailers, especially over millennial shoppers.
“I think big-box [stores] are going to continue to struggle until they reinvent themselves,” said Ron Friedman, a partner and co-head of retail and consumer products at accounting and advisory firm Marcum.
Shopping areas will increasingly need to bring in eateries to attract customers, who might then find it convenient to browse through the stores after a meal, he said.
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