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.