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NRF reports mixed bag for retailers in July

WASHINGTON — Retailers had sales gains in many back-to-school categories like clothing and sporting goods but experienced surprising declines in home-based categories, including building materials and furniture stores, according to the National Retail Federation. 

The world’s largest retail trade association found that July retail sales — excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants — increased 0.3% seasonally, adjusted from June and increased 5% unadjusted year-over-year.

“Consumers continue to grind forward in July, marking 13 consecutive months of retail sales gains,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “However, consumers alone can’t be expected to shoulder the burden of the economy. 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.”

July retail sales, released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, showed that total retail and food services sales — which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants — increased 0.2% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 5.4% unadjusted year-over-year.

“Spending has stalled and the economy is stuck in neutral,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Even with modest employment gains and steady consumer confidence, Americans remain in a cautiously positive spending pattern. 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.”

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% unadjusted year-over-year.

Clothing and clothing accessories stores' sales increased 0.9% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 5.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

Electronics and appliance stores’ sales decreased 0.1% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet increased 0.8% unadjusted year-over-year.

Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales decreased 1.4% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet increased 5.1% unadjusted year-over-year.

General merchandise stores’ sales increased 0.4% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 1.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

Health and personal care stores’ sales increased 0.7% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 3.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

Nonstore retailers’ sales increased 0.1% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 11.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 1% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 3.9% unadjusted year-over-year.