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Retail sales see summer spike for July

Despite concerns about the growing trade war, consumers continued to spend in July — a move that contributed to the sixth consecutive month of retail sales gains.

Retail sales increased 0.4% seasonally adjusted over June, and 4.9% unadjusted year-over-year, according to the National Retail Federation. The NRF numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

Overall July sales – including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – were up 0.5% over June. They were also up 6.4% year-over-year.

The month’s sales build on improvement seen in June, which was down 0.1% monthly from May, but up 3.9% year-over-year.

For the three-month moving average, sales were up 5% over the same period a year ago. The numbers come two days after NRF revised its annual forecast. The organization expects 2018 retail sales to grow by at least 4.5% over 2017, rather than the 3.8% to 4.4% predicted earlier this year.

“Today’s numbers mirror the economy, which is in very good shape,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

Kleinhenz credits the economy’s health to consumer confidence, a strengthening labor market and more after-tax dollars in household wallets thanks to tax reform.

“Consumer fundamentals remain healthy and continue to provide the wherewithal for consumers to drive domestic economic growth,” he added. “Consumer spending is the backbone of the current economic expansion, but the fly in the ointment is uncertainty regarding tariffs. If they escalate, they will no doubt weigh on confidence and household spending.”

Specifics from key retail sectors during June include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 11.3% year-over-year, and up 0.8% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

  • Health and personal care stores were up 6.2% year-over-year, but down 0.4% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 5.8% year-over-year, and unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 5.4% year-over-year, and up 1.3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

  • Electronics and appliance stores were up 4.2% year-over-year, and up 0.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 3.9%, year-over-year, but down 0.5% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 3.6% year-over-year, and up 0.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

  • General merchandise stores were up 1.8% year-over-year, and up 0.7%, month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

  • Sporting goods stores were down 5.7% year-over-year, and down 1.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

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