Commerce and NRF report August retail sales gains

Commerce reported that August retail sales, at $509 billion, were up 0.1% compared to July and were up 6.6% annually. NRF also reported a 0.1% gain from July to August, with its data excluding automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants. Compared to August 2017, it reported a 5% gain, with the economy continuing to show strength amid concerns over the trade war.

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Retail sales for the month of August showed sequential and annual gains, according to data issued today by the United States Department of Commerce and the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Commerce reported that August retail sales, at $509 billion, were up 0.1% compared to July and were up 6.6% annually. And it also said that total retail sales from June through August rose 6.5% compared to the same period a year ago.

August non-store retail sales, which includes e-commerce sales, rose 10.4% annually, and retail trade sales headed up 6.2%.

Like Commerce, NRF also reported a 0.1% gain from July to August, with its data excluding automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants. Compared to August 2017, it reported a 5% gain, with the economy continuing to show strength amid concerns over the trade war.

NRF noted that the three-month moving average through August was up 4.9%.

“Consumers are still in the driver’s seat,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. “Retail sales remain strong thanks to a solid labor market, accelerating wage growth and consumer optimism, which helps to power the consumer spending gains we are seeing. Clearly, household spending is resilient and a contributor to third-quarter GDP growth, however, uncertainty over tariffs is creating anxiety and could fuel material changes in consumer spending.”

Specifics from key retail sectors during August included:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 9.3 percent year-over-year and up .7 percent over August seasonally adjusted;
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 6.2 percent year-over-year but down 1.7 percent from August seasonally adjusted;
  • Health and personal care stores were up 5.4 percent year-over-year and up 0.5 percent from August seasonally adjusted;
  • Food and beverage stores were up 4.9 percent year-over-year and zero change from August seasonally adjusted; and
  • General merchandise stores were up 4.6 percent year-over-year and up 0.1 percent from August seasonally adjusted, among others

In the beginning of 2018, the NRF said it expected retail sales for the year, excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, to increase between 3.8%-4.4% annually. But that number was changed last month to “a minimum of 4.5% over 2017, noting it expects to gains to come from tax reform, as well as other “positive economic inputs,” but also cautioning that the impact of tariffs could lower consumer confidence.

Looking at the first half of 2018, NRF said that retail sales rose 4.8% annually and are up 4.4% annually for the most recent three-moth moving average. And it also said that it expects GDP to come in at the higher end of 2.5%-3% range.


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