Retail sales data represents total consumer purchase from retail stores. It provides valuable information about consumer spending which makes up the consumption part of GDP. The most volatile components like autos, gas prices and food prices are often removed from the report to show more underlying demand patterns as changes in sales in these categories are frequently a result of price changes. It is not adjusted for inflation. Spending on services is not included.
Rising retail sales indicate stronger economic growth. However, if the increase is larger than forecast, it may be inflationary.