Retail sales in Puerto Rico during the month of September reached a total of $2.898 billion. Compared to the previous month of August, retail sales decreased by $185 million, or 6%. Compared to 2020, sales increased by $246 million (9.3%). For many totals, 2019 remains a useful point of comparison. Compared to 2019, retail sales were $624 million (27.4%) higher.
The categories with the largest percentage increases relative to 2020 were fuel distributors (38.7%), auto part stores (27.4%), and clothing stores (23.5%). The categories with the largest absolute increases compared to 2020 were department stores ($76m), supermarkets ($31m), and gas stations and convenience stores ($26m). The categories with the largest percentage decreases relative to 2020 were sporting good and music stores (-11.9%), electronic article stores (-8.2%), and special food stores (-5.2%).
Compared to September 2019, only 3 categories had decreases in sales. Sales for gardening equipment stores fell by 20.9%, jewelry store sales fell by 13.2%, and gas station and convenience store sales were down by 3.8%.
Retail sales for the year to date have reached $27.4 billion. Compared to 2020, sales are $5.4 billion (24.7%) higher, while compared to 2019, sales are 21.7% higher. Some of the largest year to date increases in sales have been in department stores ($1.6 billion, 22.4%), new and used motor vehicles ($1.03 billion, 38.7%), and clothing stores ($388 million, 82.8%). Compared to 2020, accumulated sales for the year to date across all retail categories have increased.
Compared to 2019, only two categories have seen decreases in sales: new and used motor vehicles ($533 million, -12.6%) and gardening equipment stores ($11 million, -17.8%). One category that has seen a significant increase relative to pre-pandemic totals has been supermarket sales. Supermarket sales for the year to date have reached $3.5 billion. Compared to 2019, these sales have increased by $1 billion (41.7%). Increases in PAN funds have been the largest contributor to this growth.
Amongst retail size categories, small retailers have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Compared to year-to-date sales in 2019, small retailer sales are down by $1.27 billion (-48.4%). Smaller establishments are likelier to have been affected by shutdowns and increased costs due to COVID.
Overall, sales have remained at elevated levels since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in 2020. However, federal COVID aid has trickled down to a halt. This could mean decreased liquidity amongst consumers heading towards the end of 2021.