US retail sales if we move outside the month to month volatility and look at smoothed data (which focuses on capacity as opposed to volatility) and adjust for inflation and population growth is looking weak:
If we just look at nominal and monthly data it looks as if retail sales are recovering strongly as of the June data:
If we smooth the data (that is we look at the average of 6 months data on a rolling basis) we see a much weaker trend and the bounce of the last few months is adjusted to account for weaker earlier months (after all we are looking at retail demand capacity and not necessarily monthly changes):
But if we also adjust for inflation:
The smoothed trend adjusted for inflation is much weaker than the month to month data without inflation adjustment. Much of the recent uptick looks to be due to inflation and the idiosyncrasies of monthly (volatile) data.
But we can go a step further and adjust for population growth:
In fact real retail sales per capita are still to recover their previous peak and are only some 1.5% above December 1999 levels.