National retail sales figures released Friday showed consumers cut back their spending in May after seven straight monthly increases, but the news did not shock analysts and some Long Island retailers expecting a slow and sometimes vacillating recovery.
Retail sales fell 1.2 percent from April's figures but were 6.9 percent higher than they were in May 2009, according to the Commerce Department.
"If retail sales were lower than last year, I would be telling everyone to push the panic button," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the NPD Group, a Port Washington market research firm. "But a lot of times in April or May you always have a drop-off that depends on the weather, the calendar and consumer psyche. Everyone tends to forget that."
On Long Island, retail performance this year has varied from business to business. Susannah Meinersman, co-owner of Bon Bons Chocolatier in Huntington, said new stores have opened nearby and her customers have been loyal.
Marilyn Schulman of Bay Shore's Willy Nilly Trading Co. said sales have risen about 10 to 11 percent this year.
"People still need to buy gifts," she said. "We are selling lots of teacher gifts. We had an unbelievable Mother's Day."
Amira Garbus, co-owner of the Huntington Business Products Centre, sees more pain to come. "The sales are definitely down, and I have three empty stores next to me that have been empty for almost the whole year," Garbus said. "I hear it from the customers and the vendors. They're off because I'm off . . . I think we haven't hit bottom yet."