Usually known as a transitional month for retail, July saw strong gains in retail sales as shoppers continued to supplement trips to the beach with visits to the stores. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail industry sales for July (which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) rose a strong 4.6 percent unadjusted over last year and remained unchanged from June.
"Once again, consumers have shrugged off concerns about higher gas prices and continued to surprise industry analysts," said NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. "July has shown some surprising strength given that retailers are focused on summer clearance sales as they prepare for back-to-school.”
July retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) rose 1.8 percent seasonally adjusted from June and increased 10.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Automobile and gasoline sales, categories that NRF does not include in its retail industry sales numbers, once again performed well last month.
The strong growth in July was led by electronics and appliance stores, which rose a solid 5.9 percent unadjusted from the previous year and 1.1 percent adjusted month-to-month. Along with electronics, there was growth in several retail categories, including clothing and clothing accessories stores, which rose 4.8 percent unadjusted over last year and dropped 0.5 percent adjusted from the previous month. General merchandise stores, including department stores and discount stores, also saw gains, with sales rising 6.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year, while remaining unchanged from June. Sales were also strong at health and personal care stores, with sales gains of 4.6 percent unadjusted from July 2004, while increasing 0.6 percent month-to-month. NRF expects retail industry sales to increase 5.4 percent this year over 2004.