US June retails sales jump by 7.7pc, shoppers shift spending

Business | 16 Jul 2020 10:05 pm

U.S. retail sales climbed a solid 7.5 percent in June, a sign that the economy was healing right before infections from the coronavirus spiked again and dragged down hopes for a steady recovery.

The Census Bureau reported Thursday that retail sales are 1.1 percent higher than their levels from a year ago, after a brutal plunge in March and April was offset by a decent rebound in May and June. But any gains might be short-lived as infections began to rise toward the end of June.

“While today’s report gives the illusion of a fearless consumer spending lavishly, the reality is more sobering: consumers are increasingly fearful amid new increases in coronavirus cases and a looming fiscal cliff,” said Lydia Boussour, senior U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

The report shows how shoppers and businesses are adjusting to life in a pandemic, changing their habits in hopes of halting an illness that can quickly flare-up and wreak financial havoc.

June’s retail numbers showed the complicated nature of an uncertain recovery.

Non-store sales—which includes online shopping—slumped by 2.4 percent over the past month but are 23.5 percent higher from a year ago. Spending at restaurants and bars jumped by 20 percent last month, but it’s still down by  26.3 percent from last year. Sales at clothiers more than doubled between May and June, yet they have collapsed by 23.2 percent from a year ago.

Shoppers have responded by shifting their spending, and not only to online retailers. Sales at building materials stores were up by 17.3 percent annually. Stores in the sporting goods, musical instrument, books and hobbies categories have enjoyed yearly growth of 20.6 percent. Purchases at grocers have increased by 11.7 percent over the past year.-AP

 

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