Retail shopping

Retail sales in the U.S. fell again in May, despite a slight gain in the apparel sector.

Seasonally adjusted sales for apparel and accessories retailers in May grew to $21.6 billion, a 0.3 percent rise over April, when sales also grew by 0.4 percent to $21.39 billion. Sales compared to May 2016 are up by 1 percent, according to new Census Bureau data.

Department stores are still struggling however, and sales in May fell by 1 percent to $12.5 billion. Sales are down by 4.7 percent compared with last year.

Retailers like Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Sears are in the process of collectively closing hundreds of stores.

Since January, total sales for clothing and accessories retailers have fallen a total of 0.1 percent given months of declines at the start of the year.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported prices for apparel fell again in May by 0.8 percent after falling 0.3 percent in April. Over the last year, prices in the sector have fallen a total of 0.9 percent.

E-commerce is continuing on a string of growth and is handily beating sales in traditional retail. In May sales rose to $51.5 billion, a 0.8 percent increase over April and a 10.2 percent increase from a year ago.

Moody’s vice president Mickey Chadha said the e-commerce results were “expected” as online shopping “remains a bright spot” in retail.

Overall, retail sales declined slightly in May by 0.3 percent to $473.8 billion, driven by sizable declines at electronics and appliance stores and spending on gasoline, as well as department stores.

But compared to a year ago, total retail sales are up 3.8 percent, a number that Chadha characterized as “healthy” despite the month coming in below expectations.

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