NRF: Retail Sales Slowed in July Amid Rising Cases of Delta Variant

Washington, D.C. — The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports retail sales have decreased 1.1 percent in July over the prior month on a seasonally adjusted basis — not including automobile dealers, gas stations and restaurants — and up 9.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Retail sales in July were worse than the Dow Jones’ prediction of a 0.3 percent decrease, according to CNBC. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the delta variant is more than 98.8 percent of all COVID-19 cases currently in the United States.

In June, the NRF reported a month-over-month increase of 1.1 percent and a year-over-year growth of 12.8 percent. 

For the first seven months of 2021, the NRF reports that retail sales increased 15.5 percent from the same time period last year. This data matches the organization’s revised forecast for 2021 retail sales to increase between 10.5 and 13.5 percent over last year to between $4.44 trillion and $4.56 trillion. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, retail sales have grown year-over-year every month since June 2020, despite some month-over-month declines.

The NRF reports that July sales were down in all categories but two on a monthly basis but up across the board year-over-year. Health and personal care stores went up by 0.1 percent month-over-month, and electronics and appliance stores increased 0.3 percent month-over-month.

Clothing, electronics and furniture retailers led the pack with the highest increase in sales — 45.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Electronics and appliances stores increased 23.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year, and furniture and home furnishings stores were up 15.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Despite retail sales slowing down in the month of July, the NRF president and CEO, Matthew Shay, is still hopeful that the retail sector will continue to recover.

“Though the Delta Variant is presenting health challenges while supply chain disruptions along with unfilled job openings are presenting business challenges, the consumer and broader economy continue to display steady strength aided by advanced tax credit payments and strong gains in the labor market and personal incomes,” says Shay. “We remain optimistic that the strength of the American consumer and ingenuity of the retail industry will produce continued growth heading into the fall.”

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