Retail Sales Grew a Modest 1.2% in July

Retail spending grew by 1.2% in July, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported Friday. It’s the third straight month U.S. retail sales have increased, after experiencing an historic drop in April due to COVID-19 business closures across the nation.

Retail sales in the United States totaled $536 billion, an increase of 1.2% from June and 2.7% above July 2019. Total sales for May 2020 through July 2020 are down 0.2% from the same period a year ago.

Among the consumer categories that saw an increase were electronics and appliances, which spiked 22.9%; clothing, which rose 5.7%; and bars and restaurants, which were up by 5%.

Categories that slid in sales include motor vehicle parts, sporting goods and book stores, and home and garden suppliers, the latter of which would suggest that Americans have moved on from the “we’re stuck at home so we might as well fix it up” stage.

The Commerce Department doesn’t break out jewelry sales from “accessories,” but according to a retail insights report from Amperity, “home, jewelry, and leisure” sales rebounded from a -43% plummet in the first four months of 2020 to +45% in July 2020. What that report classifies as “home” (and why jewelry is lumped in with home and leisure) is unclear.

What is clear is that U.S. retail sales are down, but not out. Consumers are still spending, but cautiously.

Factors that will impact the industry in the short-term include the cut in additional unemployment benefits, the upcoming presidential election, and the economic effects of a back-to-school period where, for families doing virtual learning, new backpacks, clothes, and school supplies won’t likely be purchased.

Throughout the JCK Virtual 2020 show this week, experts have been bullish about the category’s strength and future growth.

JCK’s Rob Bates reported that in a virtual keynote address Tuesday, National Retail Federation senior vice president of communications Bill Thorne said, “I can guarantee, without any shadow of a doubt, hesitation, or question, that retail is going to be around for a long, long time, as it has been. The idea that there’s an apocalypse, that retail is going away as we know it, is a completely false narrative.”

(Photo: Pexels)

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JCK Magazine Editor