Commerce Department: Retail Spending Up Slightly in August, Fourth Straight Month of Growth

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Commerce Department reported in its advanced estimate Wednesday morning that retail spending rose 0.6 percent on a month-over-month basis in August. Total sales for the month were $537.5 billion, up from $534.6 billion in July. This marks the fourth straight month retail sales rose since April, when sales plummeted 16.4 percent due to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down the U.S. economy in mid-March.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) said it expected August numbers to slow due to federal assistance waning at the end of July, but the Washington, D.C.-based organization believes consumers are “in good shape” heading into the holiday season.

“Over the past several months, consumers have responded well to federal relief measures that have supported the recovery, so it comes as no surprise that they would take a pause on spending as some of these programs tapered off at the end of July,” says Matthew Shay, CEO and president of the NRF. “We continue to advocate for additional stimulus measures to help the economy recover. With the holidays quickly approaching, our retailers are prepared to serve customers to meet all of their holiday needs and are embracing the new holiday tradition of shopping early.”

Clothing and clothing accessory stores notched a 2.9 percent increase in month-over-month sales. Furniture and home furnishings stores grew at 2.1 percent clip from July. Building materials and garden supply store sales were up 2 percent.

The Commerce Department revised July’s growth down 90 basis points to a net positive of 0.9 percent compared to June sales.

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