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Home furnishings retailers lead the pack

Washington -- Hit hard by rising prices at the pump and higher credit card bills as interest rates move up, consumers kept their wallets in their pockets during June and retail sales declined by 0.2%, the Commerce Department reported.

With consumers increasingly gun-shy about rising gas prices, auto sales were notably hard hit, declining by 1.6%. And with higher interest rates making cars less affordable, car sales are now down 3.5% from year-before levels.

The month's surprise big winners were furniture and home furnishings stores, where sales jumped up by 1.3% to their highest level in several months. Indeed, the core home channel is one of retail's biggest winners for the past 12 months, with year-over-year sales advancing by 9.3%.

Other home-related channels did less well, though. Do-it-yourselfers took the month off, and sales in building material and garden supply outlets declined by 1.0%; and sales in electronics and appliance stores fell by 0.7%.

Sales in department stores declined by 0.3%, extending their losing streak, and year-over-year sales were off by 22%. Even internet and catalog shoppers took a breather, and sales for non-store retailers slipped by 0.3%. But even with the stumble, non-store sales are still up a heady 12.3% from June last year.

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