Auto sales increases drive July retail sales

Don Hogsett, Staff Staff, August 26, 2002

Lifted for a second straight month by a big increase in car sales, retail sales climbed higher in July by 1.2 percent, rising to a seasonally adjusted level of $275.6 billion.

Jump-starting overall retail sales was a 4.6 percent spike in auto sales, ignited by interest-rate and other special incentives. It was a second straight month of hefty gains for auto dealers, following a 3.4 percent increase put up in June.

Retail sales got another boost in July from sales at the gas pump, which rose by 2.7 percent, recovering from a slight dip in June.

Elsewhere, the gains in retail sales were spotty and largely muted, with only health and personal care stores managing an increase of 1 percent or better, with sales in that specialty channel inching up by 1.1 percent.

Various home goods channels of distribution generally headed south in July after showing surprising strength earlier in the year. Sales of furniture and home furnishings stores fell by 1.4 percent in July after a flat performance in June. Electronics and appliance stores recorded a 1.0 percent decline, wiping out the 0.8 percent increase they put up the month before. And do-it-yourselfers and gardeners pulled in their horns during the hot summer month, with sales at building material and garden equipment stores falling off by 1.2 percent, and wiping out a slender gain of 0.2 percent recorded the prior month.

Retail sales in July (by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Car dealers +4.6%
Gas stations +2.7
Health & personal care +1.1
Restaurants & bars +1.0
Non-store retailers +0.5
Sporting goods, hobby, books & music +0.4
Food & beverage stores +0.3
Grocery stores +0.3
Furniture & home furnishings stores -1.4
Clothing & accessories stores -1.3
Building materials & garden supplies -1.2
Electronics & appliance stores -1.0
Department stores, chains & discounters -0.1

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