Consumers looking for bargains in July helped to hoist retail sales a little higher marking the fourth consecutive month of positive gains, according to sales data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday (Aug. 13).
But it was a mixed bag for retailers in July, with sales gains in many back-to-school categories like clothing and sporting goods, but surprising declines in home-based categories, including building materials and furniture stores. According to the National Retail Federation, July retail sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 5% unadjusted year-over-year. On an adjusted basis, sales rose 0.3% from June.
“Consumers continued to grind forward in July, but consumers alone can’t be expected to shoulder the burden of the economy," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said.
He said fiscal and monetary policy uncertainties combined with stagnant economic and employment conditions continue to breed a volatile market with extreme swings in consumer spending. The economy can’t seem to maintain any amount of momentum.
“We just can’t seem to pull ourselves up,” Shay added.
Even with modest gains in employment and steady consumer confidence, the economy is stuck in neutral, said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz.
“While clothing and sporting goods retailers saw modest gains with early back-to-school shopping, home-based retailers saw marked decreases, possibly indicating the end of the year-long housing boom. This month’s retail sales report will make any decision on tapering that much harder for policymakers in D.C,” Kleinhenz said.
Other findings from the July retail sales report include:
• Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers stores’ sales decreased 0.4% seasonally-adjusted; yet increased 9.8% year-over-year.
• Clothing and clothing accessories stores' sales increased 0.9% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month, also rising 5.3% year-over-year.
• Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales decreased 1.4% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month; yet increased 5.1% year-over-year.
• General merchandise stores’ sales increased 0.4% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month; also up 1.3% year-over-year.
• Online-only retailers’ sales increased 0.1% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month while rising 11.3% year-over-year.
• Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 1% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month; also rose 3.9% year-over-year.