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August retail sales show little change from July, according to Commerce and NRF data

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
September 14, 2011

Based on data from the United States Department of Commerce and the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail sales numbers remain in a holding pattern.

August retail sales, which include non-general merchandise like automobiles, gasoline, and restaurants, were $389.5 billion which closely mirrors July and are up 7.2 percent increase compared to August 2010, according to Commerce data. Commerce said that total retail sales from June through August were up 7.9 percent annually.

According to NRF data, June retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, were up 0.1 percent from July on a seasonally-adjusted basis and up 6.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

These minimal gains reflect an increasingly gloomy economic outlook, due in large part to consumers continuing to spend only on essential items, and high unemployment levels, among other factors.

“August retail sales mirror August employment figures – zero growth,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz in a statement. “Consumer spending has stalled, and it will be important for consumers to see positive changes in the economic outlook going into the fourth quarter. While we’re not expecting a complete pull back in spending, the outlook remains modest in terms of growth.”

As LM has reported, in conjunction with flat retail sales is an ostensible stalling in freight growth to a certain degree as evidenced by recent reports from the American Trucking Associations and Cass Information Systems. Reports in recent months from both concerns show that freight growth is in a holding pattern brought on by high fuel prices, a crippled housing market, and lack of meaningful job growth, among other factors.

And with a recent lull in fuel prices there still remains a distinct possibility that retail sales will remain at current levels in the coming months. Freight volumes, specifically on the trucking side, are displaying volumes that are still well below pre-recession levels.

““We still have a troubled and worried consumer, meaning that a large amount of Americans were spending more than they earned over the last decade or two,” said Ed Leamer, chief PCI economist and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast, in a recent interview.

Leamer noted that it is only natural that consumers are doing some belt-tightening, which is a good thing. But while that is happening he said consumers are not the locomotive that is pulling the economy forward.”

Charles W. “Chuck” Clowdis, Jr., Managing Director-Transportation Advisory Services, at IHS Global Insight, agreed with Leaner, telling LM that if people believe consumer sentiment has to drive a full recovery, then “we are moving the wrong way.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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