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August retail sales see modest boost


WASHINGTON — U.S. retail sales in August reflected a solid back-to-school season.

The Census Bureau announced that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for August, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $403.9 billion, an increase of 0.9% from the previous month and 4.7% above August 2011. Retail trade sales were up 0.9% from July and 4.4% above last year.

Looking across retail categories, adjusted sales at grocery stores during the month were flat at $47.3 billion. Health and personal care stores saw a slight gain of nearly 0.2% to $23 billion. Retail sales for drug stores and pharmacies were not recorded; however, sales experienced an increase from June to July (to $19 billion). General merchandise stores' sales decreased 0.3%.

Commenting on the results, the National Retail Federation said the retail industry "continues to demonstrate its strength and resiliency during this fragile economic time."

"Consumers and retail companies continue to face many questions and challenges, from stubbornly high unemployment and stagnant incomes to depressed housing prices and the looming fiscal cliff, all playing into overall economic uncertainty and declining consumer confidence," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said.

NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz added, "While retailers continue to witness sustained sales growth, consumers remain cautious about their discretionary expenditures,. Consumers have carried much of the growth during the economic recovery, despite high food and gas costs. Though the economy isn’t backsliding, growth continues to be a sore point."

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