Washington – Sales at CE and appliance specialty stores rose 0.9 percent last month from June, to $8.2 billion, the U.S. Commerce Department reported today.
Still, the figure came in 0.8 percent below the year-ago tally, the agency’s monthly retail sales estimates show.
By comparison, sales at furniture and home-furnishings stores surged 9.9 percent in July over the prior-year period, while sales for direct sellers including e-tailers increased 11.8 percent year over year.
Total retail sales, excluding food and automotive, edged up 3.7 percent in July.
All figures were adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading day differences, but not for price changes.
According to the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), an industry trade group, the gains marked a strong turnaround following three consecutive months of retail sales declines.
“Following three months of disappointing sales, skittish consumers returned to stores in July,” said RILA president Sandy Kennedy. “Retailers’ adjustments to product assortments and pricing are paying off as budget-conscious consumers opened their wallets again last month.”
However, RILA said retailers remain concerned about the impact that economic and regulatory issues could have on consumers in the months ahead, and urged both U.S. presidential candidates “to focus on the impending fiscal cliff and to advance policies in the coming months that will promote a robust and vibrant retail industry.”
“The vibrant economy we all seek cannot exist without a robust retail industry,” said Kennedy. “Consumers remain highly sensitive to economic news and policy debates that threaten their financial security. Continued high unemployment and the prospects of reaching the fiscal cliff later this year will continue to weigh on the minds of consumers as they consider their spending in the months to come.”
Matthew Shay, president/CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), echoed Kennedy’s call for economic recovery.
“Halfway through the back-to-school season retailers are seeing positive signs that consumers are spending,” Shay said. “However, sustained retail growth hinges on Congress’ and the administration’s ability to make smart decisions about the economy and Americans’ confidence in our long-term recovery.”
Yet NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz sounded a more optimistic note, observing, “Despite high unemployment, and political and fiscal uncertainty, consumers are spending again, albeit cautiously. Retail sales continue to remain resilient in the face of bleak international news, with retailers on track with sustained sales growth year over year and year to date.”
Kleinhenz predicted that retail sales will continue to see modest growth this fall and winter.