The retail sales report is a measure of the total receipts of retail stores. The changes in retail sales are widely followed as the most timely indicator of broad consumer spending patterns. Retail sales are often viewed ex-autos, as auto sales can move sharply from month-to-month. It is also important to keep an eye on the gas and food components, where changes in sales are often a result of price changes rather than shifting consumer demand.
Retail sales can be quite volatile and the advance reports are subject to
rather large revisions. Retail sales do not include spending on services, which
makes up over half of total consumption. Total personal consumption is not
available until the personal income and consumption reports are released,
typically two weeks after retail sales.