Retail Sales Heat Up in July

Despite record store closings and death knells, retail just had is best sales month of the year in terms of year-over-year gains. U.S. total retail sales increased 4.2 percent in July over the same period last year and were up 0.6 percent from June, according to Census Bureau figures.

Sales excluding gasoline and automobiles rose 4 percent to $871.3 million in the second quarter. Sales for the May 2017 through July 2017 period were up 3.9 percent from the same period a year ago.

U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the second quarter of 2017, adjusted for seasonal variation but not for price changes, was $111.5 billion, an increase of 16.2 percent from the second quarter of 2016. E-commerce sales in the second quarter of 2017 accounted for 8.9 percent of total sales, however, excluding gas and auto, e-commerce sales likely topped 10 percent of total sales.

Among other good news for retail:

Consumer confidence is strong. According to the Prosper Insights Consumer Snapshot 2017, 54% of the US population is confident or very confident in a strong economy, vs. 46% a year ago. And US national unemployment dropped to 4.3% in May, a 10 year low.

Retail imports are up. According to NRF Global Ports Tracking Study, US imports are up 6.4% from a year ago. Growth is being driven by optimistic forecasts for very large back to school and holiday retail shopping seasons this year.

Stores are opening. 2,861 stores opened in May according to IHL. Leading the way are Dollar General (1000 stores), Dollar Tree (650 stores), O’Reilly Auto Parts (190 stores), Autozone (150 stores) and Ulta Beauty (100 stores).

Indeed, the near-term outlook for the economy is brightening, according to Reuters, which cited a separate report from the New York Fed. The Empire State general business conditions index saw a 15.4 point uptick, hovering 25.2 for August — the highest level in almost three years.

Chart courtesy Forrester Research

Forrester Research, for its part, forecasts that the US retail market in 2017 will total $3.56 trillion, that’s up 3.8% from last year. And US online sales are forecast to total $456 billion, up 14% from 2016. Here is the online sales forecast.

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Of course, not all corners of retail are smooth. Sales at electronics and appliance stores fell 0.5 percent last month. Clothing stores continue to struggle as well as malls experience less foot traffic. The sub-sector saw a 0.2 percent drop, despite rising 0.7 percent in June.