Retail Sales Increase Demonstrates Confident but Cautious Consumer

Beating economists’ estimates and forecasts, retail sales edged higher in the month of July – breaking three consecutive months of declining growth – demonstrating that consumers are gaining some semblance of confidence this summer. According to the National Retail Federation, July retail sales (excluding automobile, gas stations and restaurants) increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from June and 1.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Halfway through the back-to-school season retailers are seeing positive signs that consumers are spending,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “However, sustained retail growth hinges on Congress’ and the administration’s ability to make smart decisions about the economy and Americans’ confidence in our long-term recovery.”

July retail sales, released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce, showed total retail and food services sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants) increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 4.1 percent adjusted year-over-year. If it were unadjusted it would be 3.4 percent.

“Despite high unemployment, and political and fiscal uncertainty, consumers are spending again, albeit cautiously,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Retail sales continue to remain resilient in the face of bleak international news, with retailers on track with sustained sales growth year-over-year and year to date. Retail sales will continue to see modest growth in the fall and winter.”

Other findings from the July retail sales report include:

*Clothing and clothing accessories stores' sales increased 0.8 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 2.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

*Electronics and appliance stores’ sales increased 0.9 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet decreased 1.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

*Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales increased 1.1 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 9.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

*General merchandise stores’ sales increased 0.7 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet decreased 1.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

*Health and personal care stores’ sales increased 1.1 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 0.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

*Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 1.6 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 8.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

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About the National Retail Federation: As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s Retail Means Jobs campaign emphasizes the economic importance of retail and encourages policymakers to support a Jobs, Innovation and Consumer Value Agenda aimed at boosting economic growth and job creation.