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Summer sales slump

Consumers were cautious in their spending during the summer months.

Retail sales in August decreased by 0.2% from July on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the National Retail Federation. (The NRF numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants. Also, the Commerce Department said data for July was revised to show sales increasing 0.3% instead of the previously reported 0.6% jump.

Among the biggest surprises of the data for August was that the biggest decrease was in online and non-store sales, which fell 1.1%. Sales at apparel stores fell 1%.

"Retail sales for August were truly a mixed bag, with monthly gains in July reversed in August,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “The bottom line is that consumer spending is uneven but remains resilient and the key contributor to U.S. economic growth. While it is too early to assess the impact Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have had on the economy and retail sales, there’s no doubt that they will impact consumer spending – particularly in certain sectors – as Florida and Texas work to rebuild."

Year-over-year growth was up 3.4% on a three-month moving average. Specifics from August sales include:

• Online and other non-store sales decreased 1.1% seasonally adjusted from July but increased 8% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Clothing and accessories stores decreased 1% seasonally adjusted from July but increased 1.5% unadjusted year-over-year.

• General merchandise stores increased 0.2% seasonally adjusted over July and increased 3.1% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Electronics and appliances stores decreased 0.7% seasonally adjusted from July and decreased 3.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Furniture and home furnishings stores increased 0.4% seasonally adjusted over July and increased 5.9% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Building materials and supplies stores decreased 0.5% from July but increased 8.2% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Sporting goods stores decreased 0.1% seasonally adjusted from July and decreased 1.7% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Health and personal care stores increased 0.1% over July and increased 0.3% unadjusted year-over-year.
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