Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 2.3% year-over-year

Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 2.3% year-over-year

US retail sales continued their upward trajectory in August, albeit at a slower pace than the previous month, new figures show.

Retail sales were up 0.4% in August seasonally adjusted from July and up 4.6% unadjusted year-over-year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The numbers, which exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, include a 14.3% rise year-over-year in online and other non-store sales, which were up 1.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 2.3% year-over-year but down 0.9% month-over-month seasonally adjusted. And sales at sporting goods stores, meanwhile, were up 3.8% year-over-year and by 0.9% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

August's results build on gains of 0.9% month-over-month and 5.5% year-over-year in July.

"While consumer attitudes about the economy indicate some retreating optimism, the bottom line is that consumer spending remained resilient in August and continued to be a key contributor to US economic growth," says NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. 

"Trends remain strong, but August grew somewhat slower than July, which could reflect consumers' concerns about the unpredictability of trade policy. It is too early to assess the impact of the new tariffs that took effect at the beginning of this month, but they do present downside risks to household spending."

New 15% tariffs on a wide range of consumer goods from China took effect 1 September and are scheduled to be expanded to additional goods on 15 December, covering a total of about US$300bn in imports. In addition, 25% tariffs already in effect on $250bn worth of imports are set to increase to 30% on 15 October.

As of August, the three-month moving average was up 4.1% over the same period a year ago, compared with 3.5% in July. 

NRF's numbers are based on data from the US Census Bureau, which said today that overall August sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were up 0.4% seasonally adjusted from July and up 4.1% unadjusted year-over-year.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, agrees "the retail sector is still performing well with some solid sales gains. Although there are concerns about the economy, these are not yet hitting consumers. That position could yet change as we move into the final quarter, however, some softer prior year numbers should help offset any potential slowdown. 

On a sector level, apparel rebounded in August, with "favourable weather and some stronger fall collections coming into stores helping spur consumer interest after a weaker summer period.

"As usual, department stores continue to decline at pace (sales down 4.8%), thanks to uninspiring ranges, weak mall traffic and store closures."