U.S. retail sales rise for 3rd consecutive month

Don Hogsett, Bryan Sugar, September 16, 2002

Lifted in large part by surging sales of big-ticket items like furniture, home furnishings and cars, retail sales climbed strongly in August, by 0.8 percent, a third straight month of hefty gains, the Commerce Department reported.

Once past the summer doldrums, when consumers turn their attention to more seasonal needs, sales at furniture and home furnishings stores returned to their strong form of earlier in the year and climbed by 0.8 percent. At a seasonally adjusted level of $7.97 billion, sales in the category were at their highest level in several months.

And drawing in consumers with free-wheeling deals, car dealers drove sales higher by 1.9 percent in August, a third consecutive month of big gains.

Other big winners during August were sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, where sales soared up by 2.9 percent. Recovering from a summer-long trough induced by warm weather, building material and garden supply stores drew in consumers, pushing sales up by 0.5 percent.

Consumers took a breather with one home-related category, electronics and appliances, where sales slipped by 0.4 percent.

The gains outpaced declines during the month, and even there the shortfalls were relatively moderate. The greatest weakness was seen at gas stations, a volatile category due to rapid fluctuations in oil prices, where sales declined by 0.8 percent. Apparel stores were off by 0.3 percent.

Retail sales in August (by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Sporting goods, hobby, books & music +2.9%
Car dealers +1.9
Furniture & home furnishings stores +1.7
Building materials & garden supplies +0.5
Non-store retailers +0.5
Health & personal care stores +0.3
Gas stations. -0.8
Electronics & appliance stores -0.4
Clothing & accessories stores 0.3
Department stores -0.1

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