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August Proves Tough For Tech Retail: Feds

August was a challenging month for retail in general and CE and appliance dealers in particular.

According to the latest monthly sales estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, sell-through for tech and majap dealers slipped 3.1 percent year over year to $8.5 billion, and was essentially flat from July.

Also struggling were department stores and gas stations, whose sales fell 5 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively.

By comparison, August sales rose 1.6 percent for furniture and home-furnishings stores, 11 percent for e-tailers, and 1.4 percent for retail overall in August. (Figures were adjusted for seasonal variation and for holiday and trading day differences, but not for price changes.)

The numbers could be troubling: While the dog days of summer are a traditionally slow time for tech, August marks the start of the back-to-school season, which many consider a bellwether for the coming holiday sales period.

“The pattern of summer slowing was evident last year and that is what we’re seeing again this year,” observed Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group. “Despite this drop-off, other indicators suggest that this is a temporary dip and that consumers will remain a driving force in the U.S. economy. Last month’s data may also reflect a drag from ongoing retail price declines that have affected the industry for several years.”

Kleinhenz added that rising incomes and steady employment gains “should provide the fuel for spending as we look ahead to the holiday season.”