July’s Retail Sales Reveal Changing Consumer Spending Trends

Aug 28, 2023 | Macro Insights, No Bull Economics

Retail Sales and Low Gas Prices Post Banner

Estimated monthly sales for retail & food services increased +8.4% on an annualized, sequential m/m basis during July 2023. While this looks great & helps explain the Atlanta Fed’s forecast for +5.9% 3Q23 real GDP growth, a closer look at the details reveals ongoing consumer struggles.

Commentary

  • July’s retail sales data reveal how consumers were spreading their savings at the gas pump into lower ticket purchases outlined in the table below (ranked by sequential m/m growth).
  • Notably, online represented the fastest growing category (Jul 23/Jun 23), followed by sporting goods, food services & drinking places, and clothing.
  • In turn, we see consumers shying away from high-ticket items during July, with particular weakness in furniture & electronics.
  • Thank goodness for lower gas prices, but what will going forward retail sales results look like with pump prices headed up again (see bottom chart)?  

Source: Monthly Retail Trade – Sales Report (census.gov)

US Gas Price Chart

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