NRF: Retail Sales Continue Comeback In July

Retail sales in July grew more slowly than the month before, the National Retail Federation has reported, but those transactions added to the turnaround that has happened since this spring’s declines.

The NRF cited U.S. Census Bureau figures that indicated overall retail sales during July gained 1.2% seasonally adjusted from June and 2.7%year-over-year. That advance follows an 8.4% month-over-month increase in June. Retail sales have been climbing after a record monthly drop in April when most stores across the U.S. deemed non-essential remained closed.

Excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, NRF noted, July retail sales gained 1% seasonally adjusted from June and 10% unadjusted year-over-year. Those adjusted July numbers fell into a trend as they increased 7.1% unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average and 4.7% for the first seven months of the year.

Half of the retail categories as established by the Census Bureau saw month-over-month gains in July and three-quarters saw year-over-year increases, with the biggest monthly gain coming at electronics and appliance stores. Consumers are buying more computers for home offices and online learning because of expected school closings, even as they are purchasing more appliances associated with home improvement spending and higher home sales.

July sales by sector were:

  • General merchandise stores down 0.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 3.1% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Online and other non-store sales up 0.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and 25.8% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores unchanged proportionately month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 0.5% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores up 22.9% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but down 2.3% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores up 3.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and 3.1% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores up 0.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and 12.8% unadjusted year-over-year.

“Retail sales for July were another positive step in the right direction as our economy continues to slowly reopen,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “Americans are showing their continued resilience and willingness to spend in the face of this unprecedented pandemic and government actions to date have clearly supported consumers and the economy in this process. Retailers all across the country have demonstrated that their stores and supply chains can be operated safely and effectively for associates and their customers by following established guidelines and protocols. We encourage Congress and elected leaders at all levels of government to enact policies that support consumers and keep the economy open.”

Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist, said, “Retail sales are starting the third quarter on a solid footing considering the nosedive we saw this spring, but we have to remember that there’s uncertainty about economic policy and that the resurgence of the virus is putting pressure on the fledgling recovery. While households are spending, they are anxious about their health and economic well-being, so they are being pragmatic. The amount of uncertainty about forecasting is huge as we look toward the second half of the year, and what happens with the economy comes down to what the coronavirus allows us to do.”