July Retail Bounces Back

Don Hogsett, August 21, 2006

The hot weather that cut across wide swaths of the nation during July jump-started consumers who flocked to air-conditioned malls and pushed retail sales up by 1.4%, the biggest gain in the past six months, The Commerce Department reported.

Propelled higher in part by strong car sales and rising prices and sales at gas stations, retail sales leap-frogged over the smaller 0.8% gain that that economists had expected. The unexpected rebound more than made up for a downwardly revised 0.4% decline in sales recorded during June.

Sales were strong across the board, and of the 11 key retail formats tracked each month by the Commerce Department, gainers easily outpaced decliners by a margin of 9 to 2, led by car dealers and gas stations.

Electronics and appliance stores posted a big 2.1% increase, getting a boost from sales of air conditioners and fans. Another seasonal winner was the building material and garden supply retailers, up 1.8%. Sales of warm-weather apparel, starting to hit the clearance tables, boosted sales at clothing and accessories stores by 0.7%.

Home goods continued to move across the counter, and sales rose by 0.5% in furniture and home furnishings stores, building on an even bigger gain of 1.3% in June.

But the month wasn't without its disappointments, as sales dropped off by 0.4% at department stores, and slipped by 0.2% at sporting goods, books and music outlets.

Retail Sales in July
(by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Car dealers 3.1%
Gas stations 2.5
Electronics & appliances 2.1
Bldg. mat./garden sup. 1.8
Clothing & accessories 0.7
Restaurants & bars 0.6
Health & personal care 0.6
Furniture & home furn. Stores 0.5
Grocery stores 0.1
Department stores -0.4%
Sport. goods, books, music -0.2

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