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The July Advance Monthly Retail Trade Report is out, and the results are mixed, but not unexpected. The good news – on a seasonally-adjusted basis, growth in retail sales and food services is back to trend, helped by stimulus checks and extra Federal unemployment benefits. The bad news – high-contact shopping and eating out remains well below pre-pandemic levels.
Although total spending hit a new high, consumer dollars are being spread around different parts of the economy. Business at most brick and mortar retailing continues to show weakness. For the seven months ending in July, eating and drinking establishments, furniture, electronics and appliances, clothing and department store sales were down an average of 26% from the same period a year ago. For the most part, this was offset by home improvement, food and beverage and online retailers. It is our belief that additional fiscal stimulus and further progress in the fight against Covid-19 are needed for a positive trend to continue.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau. Data shown is from August 31, 2014 through July 31, 2020. This chart is being provided as a general source of information for education purposes only, and is not intended as a recommendation to purchase, sell, or hold any specific security or to engage in any investment strategy.