Retail Sales Show Solid Gains in July

Thank the Internet for increasing retail sales in July.

Online sales took a giant 11.4 percent step forward from last year as shoppers let their fingers do the buying. Of all the categories broken out by the National Retail Federation, it was the winner in the NRF’s monthly tabulation of retail sales.

“Consumer spending remains solid as retail sales saw healthy improvements in July and revised June numbers were also positive,” said Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF’s chief economist. “We have yet to see the full effect of Back-to-School spending, but pickup in spending was evident both online and in general merchandise, which includes bricks-and-mortar department stores. Rising home values are encouraging home-improvement spending and home-related retail purchases.”

But soft or declining prices for retail goods continued to hold down the dollar amount of sales reported even though unit volume was up.

The breakdown for July retail sales were:

• Clothing and accessories stores saw a 0.1 percent gain in July over last year.

• General merchandise stores were happy with their 1.4 percent advance for the month over last year.

• Electronics and appliances stores were down 1.4 percent from last year, but furniture and home-furnishing stores were big winners with a 4.3 percent jump in July.

• Building materials and supplies stores were doing even better with an 8.5 percent increase over last year.

• Health and personal-care stores were up 1.6 percent while the loser was the sporting-goods group, whose sales slid 5.7 percent over last year.