Retail sales were below expectations in August
September 25, 2017 Tom Sanderson

Retail sales were below expectations in August

The U.S. Bureau of the Census reported that seasonally adjusted real retail and food service sales were down 0.7% at $193.8 billion in August. (Note that actual sales are deflated using CPI 1982 – 1984 = 100). August sales were 1.2% higher than the prior-year period.

Nominal (unadjusted for inflation) seasonally-adjusted retail sales totaled $474.8 billion in August (second graph), also down slightly (-0.2%) from prior month, but up 3.2% from prior year results. This was the third straight sub-4% year-over-year gain after exceeding 4% in each of the prior 6 months. Total nominal sales were up 3.3% for the full year 2016.

The results were below consensus expectations. YTD nominal retail and food services sales excluding gasoline were up 3.8% year-over-year. August nonstore retailer sales (e-commerce and mail order) were up 8.4%. Gasoline station sales were up 6.4% year-over-year. Department stores sales fell by 0.8% year-over-year, while electronic and appliance store sales fell by 3.5%. We focus primarily on real retail sales because they are a better indicator of freight volumes than the inflated figures.

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