The July sales figures represented a 2.3% increase from a year earlier.
The department also revised June retail sales upward by 0.2% to a gain of 0.8% to reflect stronger spending at the nation’s retailers and restaurants during that month. Economists characterized the stalled momentum in July as a disappointment given recent gains in employment and wages.
The Commerce Department’s report for July, released August 12, showed relatively strong sales at auto dealers and non-store retailers. Non-store retail sales — primarily online shopping — increased 1.3% in July and were up more than 14% on the year. Amazon.com reported that its Prime Day event on July 12 was its biggest sales day ever.
Retail sales at general merchandise stores declined 0.5% in July. Some economists noted that Prime Day might have been a factor in declines in sales of apparel, electronics and general merchandise at brick-and-mortar stores in July.
Costco Wholesale Corp. reported net sales of $8.65 billion for the four weeks ended July 31 compared to $8.64 billion during the comparable period last year. Due to the timing of the Independence Day holiday, this year’s July results included one less sales day in the United States, a shift that negatively impacted Costco’s U.S. sales by 3.5%.
Fred’s Inc. reported sales of $154 million in July, down from $165.6 million in the same period in 2015. The retailer said comparable-store sales in July were down 4.6% compared to an increase of 0.7% a year earlier. “We are disappointed with the company’s performance in the month of July,” said Jerry Shore, the company’s chief executive.