July 16, 2019

June retail sales beat forecasts despite tariff stress, NRF finds

NRF also predicts families will spend more than ever on back-to-school purchases this fall.

By DC Velocity Staff

Retail sales beat expectations for June, trumping economic uncertainties triggered by trade wars to rise 0.6 percent over May and 2.3 percent over the same month last year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said today.

As of June, the three-month moving average was up 3.7 percent over the same period a year ago, compared with 3.3 percent in May. June's results build on gains of 0.4 percent month-over-month and 2.9 percent year-over-year seen in May, the group said.

The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. NRF bases its analysis on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said today that overall June sales - including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants - were up 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from May and up 3.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

"These are impressive results showing that the consumer remains engaged and that consumer spending gave a boost to the economy in the second quarter," NRF Chief Economic Jack Kleinhenz said in a release. "The numbers are consistent with elevated consumer sentiment, healthy household balance sheets, low inflation, and wage and job gains."

The report comes as industry leaders continue to wring their hands about the long-term impacts of simmering trade wars, saying they could tamp down gross domestic product (GDP) growth and spark job losses. "While the prospect of tariff increases has subsided for the moment, trade uncertainties continue to weigh on the long-term outlook," Kleinhenz said.

The June figures follow another recent NRF report predicting that families will spend more than ever outfitting students with back-to-school equipment. Those numbers are based on an annual survey released Monday by the NRF and Prosper Insights and Analytics, covering 7,660 consumers.

According to the study, families with children in elementary school through high school plan to spend an average $696.70. That's up from $684.79 last year and tops the previous record of $687.72 set in 2017. With fewer families surveyed saying they have children in grades K-12, spending is expected to total $26.2 billion, down from last year's $27.5 billion despite the increase in per-household spending.

Families with college students are expected to spend an average $976.78, which is up from last year's $942.17 and tops the previous record of $969.88 set in 2017. With fewer survey respondents saying they are attending college, spending is expected to total $54.5 billion, down from last year's record $55.3 billion.

As a combined figure, total spending for K-12 schools and college combined is projected to reach $80.7 billion, down from last year's $82.8 billion largely because of the decreased number of households with children in elementary through high school.

"Consumers are in a strong position given the nation's growing economy, and we see this reflected in what they say they will spend on back-to-class items this year," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a release. "We're expecting record spending and retailers are ready to provide students with all the items they need for a successful school year."

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