Consumers Still Shopping Despite Inflation

Overall retail sales rose 10.3% in July

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Fueled by lower gas prices and reshuffled shopping priorities, consumers continued to dig into their wallets last month, sending overall retail sales up 10.3% year over year.

The figure, released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau in its monthly retail sales report, includes all channels of distribution except car dealerships, gas stations and restaurants.

Online and home improvement stores led the charge, with July sales up 2.7% and 1.5%, respectively, from June. Within BrandSource member categories, appliance and electronics stores posted a 0.4% increase, and furniture and home furnishings stores showed a 0.2% gain month over month.

“Retail sales grew in July, supported by declines in prices at the gas pump and moderately lower inflation,” observed Matthew Shay, President/CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association. “Consumers are adapting to higher prices by prioritizing essentials like food and back-to-school items, and retailers are working hard to absorb the impact of higher costs and help customers stretch their hard-earned dollars.”

See: Inflation is Finally Catching Up to Consumers

Nevertheless, inflation remains “disturbingly high,” added NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz, “and is the most important challenge for consumers and retailers.”

Underscoring the point, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC that even well-heeled consumers with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more have begun shopping the discount chain in search of bargains, and concurred with NRF’s Shay that many customers are choosing food and back-to-school products over discretionary purchases.

“People are really price-focused now, regardless of income level,” he said.

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