Retail sales got off to a shaky start this year, but things seem to be turning around for the U.S. retail and food services industries, which saw an uptick in sales in June.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported on Friday (July 15) that retail and food services sales for June came in at $457 billion, up 0.6 percent from May and up 2.7 percent year over year. Sales for the three months ended in June increased 2.6 percent compared to last year.
The results for June mark the third month in which the Commerce Department reported an increase in sales for the retail sector, with the gains broad-based during the first month of summer. Building material stores, including Home Depot and Lowe’s, were particularly strong with sales increasing 3.9 percent, marking their strongest showing since 2010. Online purchases also saw gains, increasing 1.1 percent month over month and 14 percent year over year. That comes amid a year-over-year decline in department store sales. Sales did see a modest increase in June compared to March. Department stores have been under pressure in recent months as competition from low-cost and online retailers is heating up. Amazon is dominating in most categories, including areas that were traditionally the domain of department stores. Sporting goods and furniture also saw an increase in sales in June. The only two categories to report a decline in sales were clothing and restaurants/bars. Electronics sales were flat month over month and down 3.7 percent year over year.
The strong showing out of the retail industry beat Wall Street expectations, coming at a time when unemployment is improving and wages are increasing, boosting consumer confidence. One potential area of concern is the dip in sales of clothing and restaurants/bars in June. Both areas are purely discretionary, meaning people can live without them if money is tight or they are cutting back. That may not be the same of other retail purchases.