Retail sales last week rose 2 percent above their year-ago performance but failed to build on the prior week’s showing.
According to The Retail Economist-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index, sales for the seven days ended Aug. 22 were even with those for the prior week with an index reading 583.
“Apparel demand was soft over the past week, while housing-related demand continued to lead the retail pack,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist and principal of The Retail Economist. “The recent stock market’s weakness, volatility and uncertainty bear watching as they potentially could negatively affect consumer demand of high-income consumers, in particular, but all consumers as well.”
In addition to apparel stores, the index pointed to weakness at department, dollar, electronics, grocery and drug stores and wholesale clubs.
Online-only retailers, discounters and office-supply stores experienced “modest strength.”
According to Cowen & Co., which gets data from devices that monitor in-store activity, traffic was down 1.8 percent during the seven days ended Aug. 22, better than the 5.6 percent decline of a year ago and the drop of 2.7 percent recorded during the week ended Aug. 15. Hot, dry weather in the Northeast prevented more robust buying of fall apparel and resulted in the weakest regional trends.
During the week, apparel traffic was down 2.5 percent , worse than the 1.6 percent of the prior week. Electronics traffic dropped 1.8 percent, a significant improvement over the 4.5 percent decline of the week ended Aug. 15.
Weather Trends International said a heat wave in the Northeast “produced the third warmest comparable week in more than 24 years.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said the average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline was down 7.9 cents last week, putting the average price at the pump 23.7 percent below the same week a year ago.