July Retail Sales Show Strong Gains But Stock Market and Tariffs Could Lead to Caution in Consumer Spending

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WASHINGTON–()–Retail sales were up 0.9 percent in July seasonally adjusted from June and up 5.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said today. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“July’s strong results are consistent with a confident consumer,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Households are in good shape with spending and that should continue as long as the labor market remains healthy. But it’s important to remember that today’s data is looking backward at what was happening a month ago. The impact of volatile financial markets and increased trade tensions in recent weeks may put a wind of caution in consumer spending as we move forward in 2019.”

The release of July’s numbers comes two days after the Trump administration delayed new tariffs on some consumer goods until December 15 to avoid any impact on holiday spending, but many products will still be hit by tariffs taking effect September 1 as scheduled.

As of July, the three-month moving average was up 3.5 percent over the same period a year ago, compared with 3.7 percent in June. July’s results build on gains of 0.6 percent month-over-month and 2.2 percent year-over-year seen in June.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said today that overall July sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were up 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from June and up 3.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Specifics from key retail sectors during July include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 19.3 percent year-over-year and up 2.8 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted, likely boosted by Amazon’s Prime Day promotion.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 6.1 percent year-over-year but down 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 4 percent year-over-year and up 0.6 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • General merchandise stores were up 2.1 percent year-over-year and up 0.6 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 2 percent year-over-year and up 0.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Sporting goods stores were up 2 percent year-over-year but down 1.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were down 0.5 percent year-over-year but up 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 1.6 percent year-over-year but up 0.8 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 2.3 percent year-over-year but up 0.9 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

About NRF

The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail thrive. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP and supporting one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans. For over a century, NRF has been a voice for every retailer and every retail job, educating, inspiring and communicating the powerful impact retail has on local communities and global economies. NRF.com

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