U.S. Retail Sales Grow 0.6% in August
U.S. retail sales increased just 0.6% in August, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, a rate of growth being blamed in part on the July expiration of a $600 weekly unemployment subsidy. Food retail appeared to take a slight dip as well.
The new figures were released as this year’s pandemic back-to-school season starts to draw to a close, and as merchants look forward to the holiday shopping seasons. Even so, some experts sounded a note of optimism about retail sales going forward — while still pressing for additional economic stimulus in the short term.
“While August retail sales numbers were a bit mixed, we believe the consumer is resilient and is in good shape as we head into the holiday season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Over the past several months, consumers have responded well to federal relief measures that have supported the recovery, so it comes as no surprise that they would take a pause on spending as some of these programs tapered off at the end of July. We continue to advocate for additional stimulus measures to help the economy recover. With the holidays quickly approaching, our retailers are prepared to serve customers to meet all of their holiday needs and are embracing the new holiday tradition of shopping early.”
Massive uncertainty abounds as the all important fourth quarter draws near and many retailers resume pandemic-interrupted operations.
“Retail spending habits have remained largely consistent and stable these past few months since stores began to reopen. Some consumers likely reduced their spending with the end of the $600 supplemental unemployment benefits for those out of work, but a building-up of savings from that and other government cash helped support spending,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “At this juncture, it is difficult to sort out how much economic activity is due to government support and how much is evidence of hardcore demand due to recent job gains. August numbers might have been higher if not for small businesses struggling with reopening and the return to full operations.”
Specifically, for August, the retail figures showed that:
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 2.9 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but down 23.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 2.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 0.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Building materials and garden supply stores were up 2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 11.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Electronics and appliance stores were up 0.8 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but down 3.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Online and other non-store sales were unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 20.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Health and personal care stores were up 0.8 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 3.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- General merchandise stores were down 0.4 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and down 0.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Grocery and beverage stores were down 1.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 8.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
- Sporting goods stores were down 5.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.