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Retail sales gains moderate in August

Retail sales gains moderate in August

Author: Daphne Howland

Source: Retail Dive 

  • August retail sales rose 0.6% from July and 4.6% year over year, the U.S. Department of Commerce said on Friday. Non-store retail (mostly e-commerce) rose 1.6% from July and 16% from last year, according to the report.

  • Clothing sales fell 0.9% from July, but rose 0.4% year over year. Sales at electronics and appliance stores were flat from July and fell 3.5% year over year. Department store sales fell 1.1% from July and 5.4% from last year, the federal government said. But analysis from GlobalData Retail found apparel specialty retailers rebounding 2.3% year over year, thanks to "Favorable weather and some stronger fall collections," according to a report emailed to Retail Dive.

  • According to the National Retail Federation's interpretation of the numbers (which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants), also released Friday, retail sales rose 0.4% in August seasonally adjusted from July and 4.6% unadjusted year over year.

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Talk of a recession or some form of economic slowdown and head-spinning policy changes on tariffs aren't weighing on the U.S. consumer all that much, thanks to high employment and "modest wage gains," according to GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders.

"A modest fall in gas prices added further momentum," he said in comments emailed to Retail Dive. "The negative chatter around an economic slowdown and the impact of tariffs is clearly not yet hitting the ability or willingness of consumers to spend. That could change in the next few months if inflation starts to creep up and wage gains stall; however, the more modest prior year comparatives in November and December should offset any potential slowdown."

That was further complicated already on Monday, however, as oil prices surged amid reports of an attack on a Saudi oil field. The stock market took a hit in response to that news, and that, plus any major price hikes at the pump could whittle consumer confidence.

The moderation in sales gains noted in August showed some of that confidence already ebbing, at least somewhat, according to NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

"Trends remain strong, but August grew somewhat slower than July, which could reflect consumers' concerns about the unpredictability of trade policy," he warned. "It is too early to assess the impact of the new tariffs that took effect at the beginning of this month, but they do present downside risks to household spending."

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