Retail Sales Fall More Than Expected in July

August 17, 2021

U.S. consumers cut their spending in July amid mounting concerns about the spread of the Delta variant.

Retail sales, which includes purchases at stores, restaurants, and online, for the month fell 1.1% for the month, worse than the 0.3% decline that economists polled by Dow Jones had expected. Sales for June were revised upwardly to a 0.7% increase. Excluding car sales, which have been constrained by inventory issues related to the semiconductor shortage, sales were down 0.4% for the month.

The report suggests that Americans are shifting away from purchases of goods and toward services. The figures do not include spending on services like travel, recreation, and entertainment. In addition to car sales, sales of goods like clothing, furniture, and sports equipment all fell. Restaurants and bars, however, saw sales increase 1.7%, suggesting that Americans are still eager to dine out, even as covid numbers surge in many parts of the country.

Despite the month-over-month decline, July’s sales totaled $617.7 billion, a 15.8% increase over the same month last year. Retail sales are also well above their pre-pandemic level. July’s sales were 17.5% higher than in February 2020, just before the pandemic began.

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