Washington - Sales for CE and majap specialty dealers rose 4.3 percent in August to $8.6 billion, according the Commerce Department's latest monthly retail tally.
The figures, adjusted for seasonal variations and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, also show a 1.1 percent sales decline from July.
Nevertheless, the CE/majap channel outpaced aggregate retail sales last month, which rose 0.5 percent year over year excluding gas stations, restaurants and car dealerships.
The government figures, which are skewed toward large big-box chains, contradict reports from the CE and majap trades of anemic summer sales, particularly in August.
According to separate studies by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and The NPD Group, August results were buoyed by moderate back-to-school sales, aggressive retail promotions and state sales tax holidays.
"Most Americans are in a much better financial position than a year ago, but they are still spending cautiously, looking for bargains and comparing prices before buying," said NRF president/CEO Matthew Shay.
Added Perry James, president of office supplies and non-games software at NPD: "We are seeing signs of a slow and moderate recovery in the school supplies market. Consumers are sticking with the necessities on their back-to-school lists, but are willing to shop around to get a better deal. It's imperative for retailers and manufacturers to make sure they have the right products at the right price and keep those consumers in one store for their one-stop shopping."