NRF: July Retail Sales Up As Consumer Spending Gains

Retail sales were up 0.9% in July seasonally adjusted from June and up 5.6% unadjusted year-over-year, according to the National Retail Federation. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“July’s strong results are consistent with a confident consumer,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. “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 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% over the same period a year ago, compared with 3.7% in June. July’s results build on gains of 0.6% month-over-month and 2.2% 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% seasonally adjusted from June and up 3.4% unadjusted year-over-year.

Specifics from key retail sectors during July include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 19.3% year-over-year and up 2.8% month-over-month seasonally adjusted, likely boosted by Amazon’s Prime Day promotion.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 6.1% year-over-year but down 0.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 4% year-over-year and up 0.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • General merchandise stores were up 2.1% year-over-year and up 0.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 2% year-over-year and up 0.3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 2.3% year-over-year but up 0.9% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.