Sales last week got a bit of help from the timing of Father’s Day, but not enough to set department and apparel stores on a stronger trajectory.
The Retail Economist LLC-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index finished the week ended Saturday at 576.7, 1.6 percent above the prior week’s 567.8 and 1.5 percent higher than in the comparable week of 2014. In the prior week, sales grew 1.9 percent on a year-over-year basis but, just 0.2 percent sequentially.
Business at furniture stores continued to excel and office-supply stores also showed improvement, but the recent run of weaker sales results continued at department and apparel stores as well as at drug, grocery, electronics, dollar and discount stores and warehouse stores.
Helping to fuel the strength of furniture at retail is an increase in new-home sales, which reached a seven-year high with an annual rate of 546,000 in May. The median price was 1 percent lower than in May 2014, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.
Activity in the home market might be accelerating as the expectation of higher-interest rates later in the year is pushing prospective buyers to make financing commitments before the Federal Reserve takes action.
Sales last month also appeared to benefit from the later timing of Father’s Day. “There were a number of crosscurrents for sales over the past week from a mismatched Father’s Day comparison, which helped sales on a year-over-year basis, to the impact of tropical storm Bill, which curbed consumer spending,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist and principal of the Retail Economist. “Stepping back from the week-over-week volatility, underlying customer traffic is a bright spot for the industry since it has improved somewhat on a year-over-year basis during the second fiscal quarter from its weak first-quarter pace and that should help lift sales a bit for the quarter as well.”
Starting in Texas and petering out in Pennsylvania, the storm made for an unusually wet, hot week, suppressing store traffic in affected areas.
Gasoline prices at the pump registered their first decline in 10 weeks, dropping 2.3 cents to $2.812, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Compared to the same week a year ago, the average price of a gallon of unleaded fuel was 24.1 percent lower.