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Retail softened in August – Commerce Dept.

Washington – Retail sales turned broadly 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.

Sales were soft across the board, and not a single channel managed a gain of even 1.0%. In fact, the month's big winner was an unlikely choice, 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. In third place were health and personal care stores, up 0.5%.

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

The biggest loser at retail – but good news for consumers – was gas stations, where sales dropped off by 1.0% as oil prices eased. Clothing and accessories stores fell 0.3%, and department stores dipped 0.2%.

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