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Retail Softened in August

Sales turned soft during August, limping ahead a skimpy 0.2%, hitting the wall after a much larger 1.4% increase the month before, the Commerce Department reported.

A big part of the month's weakness was a slowdown in car sales, which inched up just 0.5%, after a big 4.3% increase in July. But sales were off broadly; not a single channel managed a gain of even 1.0%. The month's big winner was sporting goods, books and music stores, where sales improved by 0.8%. In second place, up 0.7%, were restaurants and bars, where consumers presumably fretted about rising interest rates and a weakening jobs outlook. Third were health and personal care stores, up 0.5%.

Home-related channels were among the month's weakest performers. Finishing at the bottom were electronics and appliances retailers and building material and garden supply outlets, each up just 0.1%. Furniture and home furnishings stores did even worse, declining by 0.3%.

The biggest loser was gas stations, where sales dipped 1.0% as oil prices eased. Clothing and accessories stores fell 0.3%, department stores dipped 0.2%.

Retail Sales in August
(by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Sport. Goods, books, music 0.8%
Restaurants & bars 0.7
Health & personal care 0.6
Grocery stores 0.5
Car dealers 0.4
Non-store retailers 0.3
Electronics & appliances 0.1
Bldg. mat./garden supplies 0.1
Gas stations -1.0
Department stores -0.2
Furn. & home furn. Stores -0.3
Clothing & accessories -0.3

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