Retail Sales Grew at the Slowest Pace in Six Months in August

Retail sales grew at the slowest pace in six months in August, with consumers curtailing their spending on apparel and other fashion items.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported a slowdown in businesses including clothing and accessories stores as well as department stores, which recorded sales declines of 1.7 percent and 1 percent respectively. It marked the biggest drop for clothing stores since February last year, after the category grew 2.2 percent in July.

According to the Department of Commerce, retail sales grew just 0.1 percent last month — the smallest gain since February. Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and book stores collectively inched up just 0.2 percent while miscellaneous store retailers marked a 2.3 percent growth. Generation merchandise stores, on the other hand, increased only 0.1 percent. (Meanwhile, July’s numbers were revised upward to 0.7 percent instead of the previously reported 0.5 percent, indicating steady growth in the third quarter.)

The figures come as a University of Michigan survey confirms a significant rise of U.S. consumer sentiment, shooting up to 100.8 from 96.2 in August — the second highest mark since July 2004, behind March this year. The month saw average hourly wages surge by an annual rate of 2.9 percent, representing the fastest year-over-year gain in eight years.

It also trails news of recent tariffs that President Donald Trump’s administration placed on goods from trade partners including the European Union as well as Chinese imports. Survey of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtain added, “The largest problem cited on the economic horizon involved the anticipated negative impact from tariffs. Concerns about the negative impact of tariffs on the domestic economy were spontaneously mentioned by nearly one-third of all consumers in the past three months, up from one-in-five in the prior four months.”

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