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July retail sales strong
Back-to-School off to good start

WASHINGTON — Driven by back-to-school spending on electronics, apparel and other necessities, July retail sales rebounded from a slow start to the summer.

According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales for July (which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) rose a solid 4.0 percent unadjusted over last year and 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted from June. June retail sales were also revised, up from 3.4 percent to 3.8 percent.

July retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and 3.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Back-to-school shopping sprees and summer clearance promotions drove consumers to department and specialty stores in July,” NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells said. “While concerns of a housing market slump and high gas prices still weigh heavily on consumers’ minds, many people still hit the stores last month, giving retailers a nice rebound from earlier this summer.”

While apparel sales were expected to remain flat this summer during the essential back-to-school shopping season, seasonally adjusted month-to-month sales show clothing and clothing accessories increased 1.3 percent from June and 4.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

New mp3 players, laptops and other electronic must-haves also helped boost July sales. Electronics and appliance stores sales increased 1.0 percent, seasonally adjusted from last month and 2.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Health and personal care stores did surprisingly well, increasing 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 6.3 percent unadjusted over last July. General merchandise stores sales increased 0.9 percent, seasonally adjusted from June and 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores sales increased 0.4 percent, seasonally adjusted from June and a solid 5.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry’s key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2006 sales of $4.7 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations.


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