U.S. retail sales continued to recover from the coronavirus pandemic in August, showing a slight improvement from July and larger gains than last year, the National Retail Federation or NRF said. However, the pace of growth slowed from July.
The NRF said in a statement that August retail sales – which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants in order to focus on core retail – edged up 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted from July and rose 5.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
The NRF’s August numbers build on a 0.6 percent monthly increase and 9.6 percent year-over-year increase in July retail sales.
While just more than half of retail categories saw month-over-month gains, two-thirds of the categories saw year-over-year increases. The biggest monthly gain came at clothing stores, but their sales remained far below last year.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday that overall retail sales in August rose 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from July and increased 2.6 percent year-over-year. That followed a 0.9 percent month-over-month increase in July.
According to the NRF, its results for August are different from those of the Census Bureau figures due to the categories it excludes.
“While August retail sales numbers were a bit mixed, we believe the consumer is resilient and is in good shape as we head into the holiday season,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.
Shay noted that U.S. consumers have responded well to federal relief measures over the past few months, but might have taken a pause on spending in August as some of the measures tapered off at the end of July. Nevertheless, retail sales have continued to climb after a record monthly drop in April, when most stores were closed.
According to NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz, the August figures were topsy-turvy due to the uncertainty regarding back-to-school spending as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kleinhenz added that the August numbers might have been higher, but for the small businesses that are struggling to reopen and return to full operations.
The NRF continues to advocate for additional stimulus measures to help the economic recovery.
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