No, consumers didn’t suddenly flock back to the mall. That was just a media joke. They bought online more than ever. Sales at department stores fell.
The retail sales data, reported today by the Census Bureau, are based on surveys of about 5,500 retail businesses across the US, what they said their sales were. The measure is designed to track how well retailers are doing by retailer category , and we’ll get into those categories in a moment.
Another measure tracks spending by consumers, based on surveys of consumers. It’s reported separately and comes in an inflation-adjusted version. But not today (here’s June’s “Real” Consumer Spending ).
Retail sales track sales of goods, not of services, and make up only a portion of what consumers spend their money on – and about two-thirds of consumer spending is for services, and spending has shifted back to services all year.
These are important distinctions between retail sales and consumer spending . I bring this up here because it always percolates through our illustrious comment section below the article.
Today’s data is designed to look at the health of retailers by retailer category, not the health of consumers, though we can draw some inferences from those retail sales about consumers. Inflation at retailer = price increases. But where?
CPI inflation in July was 8.5%. But this varied widely by product category. The CPI for services is spiking relentlessly but doesn’t figure into retail sales because retailers sell goods.
The CPI for gasoline: -7.7% in July from June; if gas stations sold the same volume in terms of gallons in July as in June, their retail sales of gasoline in dollars would have plunged by 7.7% from June. But they didn’t – they dropped by only 1.8%, as we’ll see in a moment. The CPI […]
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