Stimulus Checks Boost Consumer Spending and Retail Sales : The Indicator from Planet Money Stimulus checks have started to hit many Americans' bank accounts. Will this give an extra boost, or maybe even a lifeline, to retailers?

Stimulus And The Shopper

Stimulus And The Shopper

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GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images
(Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)
GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images

The COVID-19 recession and employment crisis did not hit everyone in the US economy equally, and there's probably no clearer picture of that than what has been happening in the retail sector of the economy.

Last year, as unemployment levels hit their highest level since the Great Depression, a lot of people who were able to keep their jobs but weren't necessarily able to travel or eat out started spending their money on stuff. Home sales spiked. So did sales of exercise equipment, home office furniture, electronics, and outdoor furniture.

Retail sales in 2020 were higher than they had ever been IN HISTORY. They hit an all time record over the summer. Not every retailer was flying high though. It's been really lean times for some retailers: nearly 10-thousand businesses filed for bankruptcy last year. A lot of small businesses struggled, and so did some big ones. J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, Brooks Brothers, and GNC all filed for bankruptcy

For others like Amazon and Best Buy, 2020 was a banner year. And now that stimulus checks are on the way, a lot of retailers could see a boost. The checks will put desperately needed money into the hands of people to pay rent, bills, buy food, but also maybe buy some things they've been waiting to get. And this is a big deal. Consumer spending makes up three quarters of the U.S. economy.

Now that the stimulus checks are coming, will it give an extra boost to retailers, and maybe a lifeline to those who've been struggling? On the Indicator, we ask Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester to take us on a retail journey.

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