Retail Sales Dip 0.3 Percent in August

Retail sales continued to zigzag in August after a strong June and a relatively flat July. The National Retail Federation announced today that retail sales, excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, decreased 0.3 percent over July. On a year-over-year basis, however, NRF calculates that retail sales increased 4.1 percent. 

“The pattern of summer slowing was evident last year and that is what we’re seeing again this year.”

Jack Kleinhenz
NRF Chief Economist

“The pattern of summer slowing was evident last year and that is what we’re seeing again this year,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Despite this drop off, other indicators suggest that this is a temporary dip and that consumers will remain a driving force in the U.S. economy. Last month’s data may also reflect a drag from ongoing retail price declines that have affected the industry for several years. Rising incomes and steady employment gains should provide the fuel for spending as we look ahead to the holiday season.”

While the softer spending was generally broad-based — notably there was a drop-off in non-store sales — clothing sales increased 0.7 percent in August, driven by the back-to-school spending season.

In August, the three-month moving average of retail sales on a year-over-year basis increased 3.6 percent unadjusted.

A few specifics from the report include:

  • Online and other non-store sales decreased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 16.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at clothing and accessories stores increased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over July and decreased 0.7 percent unadjusted over last year.
  • Sales at general merchandise stores were flat seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 2.1 percent year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliances stores’ sales increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and decreased 1.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales decreased 0.7 percent over the previous month and increased 3.8 percent unadjusted over last year.
  • Sales at building materials and supplies stores decreased 1.4 percent over the previous month and increased 7.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores’ sales decreased 1.4 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 1.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.  
  • Sales at health and personal care stores decreased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 10.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.