Auto Sales Sink Retail

Don Hogsett, September 19, 2005

Washington — Dragged down by plunging auto sales as deep-discount promotions dried up, retail sales fell 2.1 percent in August, to $350.1 billion from $357.6 billion in July, the Commerce Department.

But getting past the pain of highly volatile auto sales, retail sales excluding cars actually improved 1 percent, to $274.1 billion from $272.2 billion a year ago.

And in more good news, home-related channels were notably strong performers during August. Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores improved 0.9 percent, to $9.2 billion from $9.1 billion in July. Sales at electronics and appliances stores edged up 0.3 percent, to $8.4 billion from $8.3 billion.

Not surprisingly, given the sharply rising price of petroleum products, the biggest gainer during the month was gas stations, where sales jumped 4.4 percent, to $34.1 billion from $32.7 billion the preceding month.

Overall, the monthly reading was good news to Rosalind Wells, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, who said, “Though gas prices are a concern, the August report is further proof that it is unwise to base retail sales projections on one economic indicator. Retailers who were anxious about the upcoming holiday season may be breathing a little easier.”

Retail Sales in August
(by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Gas stations 4.4%
Non-store retailers 1.8
Health & personal care 1.2
Furn. & home furn. Stores 0.9
Grocery stores 0.8
Bldg. mat./garden supplies 0.5
Sporting goods, books 0.5
Electronics & appliances 0.3
Clothing & accessories 0.0
Car Dealers -12.0%
Department stores -0.3
Restaurants & bars -0.0

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