Retailers register sluggish improvement in July


ShoppingAccording to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school shoppers were primarily responsible for handing the industry its 13th consecutive month-over-month gain, but the organization also lamented a surprising pullback in spending on household items. However, although July was only a little better than June, it was much better than July 2012.

The results, seasonally adjusted and excluding auto, fuel and restaurants, were 0.3% better than June 2013 and 5% better than July 2012.

NRF president/CEO Matthew Shay said consumers can’t do it alone, and while he didn’t make any specific suggestions, he did call for authorities to get their act together. “Consumers continue to grind forward in July, marking 13 consecutive months of retail sales gains” he said. “However consumers alone can’t be expected to shoulder the burden of the economy. Fiscal and monetary policy uncertainties combined with stagnant economic and employment conditions continue to breed a volatile market with extreme swings in consumer spending. The economy can’t seem to maintain any amount of momentum. We just can’t seem to pull ourselves up.”

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz added, “Spending has stalled and the economy is stuck in neutral. Even with modest employment gains and steady consumer confidence, Americans remain in a cautiously-positive spending pattern. While clothing and sporting goods retailers saw modest gains with early back-to-school shopping, home-based retailers saw marked decreases, possibly indicating the end of the year-long housing boom. This month’s retail sales report will make any decision on tapering that much harder for policymakers in D.C.”

Here are specific data points offered by NRF:

* Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers stores’ sales decreased 0.4 percent seasonally-adjusted yet increased 9.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

* Clothing and clothing accessories stores’ sales increased 0.9 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 5.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

* Electronics and appliance stores’ sales decreased 0.1 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet increased 0.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

* Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales decreased 1.4 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet increased 5.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

* General merchandise stores’ sales increased 0.4 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 1.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

* Health and personal care stores’ sales increased 0.7 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 3.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

* Nonstore retailers’ sales increased 0.1 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 11.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

* Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales increased 1.0 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 3.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.