source for US retail sales by year found here: https://www.multpl.com/us-retail-sales/table/by-year
Jan 1, 2019
329.45 million population
$1539.59 per capita
Jan 1, 2002
287.6 million population
$985.77 per capita
Now we have to take into account inflation. According to a quick inflation calculator,
what cost $985 in 2002 would cost $1427.17 in 2019.
So overall, I calculate that per capita retail sales went up 7.8 percent between 2002 and 2019.
So it appears that retail spending really is up. This is per capita (meaning for each person, on average).
Thus I am really puzzled why retailers are still going out of business.
(I don't buy that it's mostly due to online retailing)
I would point out though that 7.8 percent over 17 years is not a lot of growth. That means there could be more subtle factors at play.