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Logistics business: June retail sales down slightly, according to Commerce and NRF

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By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
July 14, 2010

As was the case in May, retail sales were down slightly in June but were up year-over-year, according to data released by the United States Department of Commerce and the National Retail Federation.

June retail sales, which include non-general merchandise like automobiles, gasoline, and restaurants, at $360.2 billion, were down 0.5 percent from May and up 4.8 percent year-over-year, and total retail sales from April through June were up 6.8 percent year-over-year, according to the Department of Commerce.

The NRF reported that June retail sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) also dipped 0.5 percent seasonally-adjusted compared to May and were up 4.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Moderate growth these last few months proves that consumer uncertainty remains,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz in a statement. “A slow- growing economy and high unemployment rates will continue to hinder consumers’ decisions to spend on discretionary items.”

Relatively flat growth from May to June does not come as a huge surprise, given other recent economic reports and analyses that suggest the economic green shoots from the first half of 2010 may be subsiding somewhat.

Some of these recent indicators include: continued high levels of unemployment; a drop in the Consumer Confidence Index from 62.7 percent in May to 52.9 percent in June; and a 10 percent dip in May housing starts, among others.

Despite these signs, freight transportation volumes remain solid overall, especially when compared to a challenging 2009. One driver for this is due to manufacturers and retailers slowly building up inventories after deliberately keeping them low for months to better match up with low demand levels during the recession.

“We are still fairly positive about things in general in terms of the recovery happening, but there will be fits and starts,” said Eric Starks, president of freight transportation forecast consultancy FTR Associates. “That is what we are seeing now.”

A “wait and see” approach to the economy is going to be required over the coming months, said Starks, with a better idea of where things likely stand possible in September. Whether the recent downward indicators are truly an indication of things to come—or lead to a double-dip recession of some sort—is still to be determined, he said.

And things like a fluctuating stock market, coupled with economic unrest in Europe, do little to help with overall economic confidence as well, noted Starks.

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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