Retail sales were $426.6 billion in August, rising another .2% after increasing that amount in July and .4% in June. This growth was driven by auto sales (up 1%), furniture stores (up .9%), and electronic/appliance stores (also up .9%). Shoppers are using low-cost loans to purchase these big-ticket items. For more, see School and Car Loans Up.
However, it looks like back-to-school sales aren't doing as well this year. Apparel is down .8%, and bookstores are seeing a .5% decline. This confirms the National Retail Federation's forecast of a 12% decline and the International Council of Shopping Centers modest increase of 3.1%, the smallest gain since 2009. (Source: U.S. Commerce Dept, U.S. Retail Sales, September 13, 2013)
How It Affects You
Families are finally buying those big-ticket items, after putting off these purchases for years after the financial crisis. This indicates some consumer confidence. However, incomes aren't up enough to allow these purchases and a lot of back-to-school bills. Therefore, expect the all-important holiday shopping season to be a little low, starting with Halloween. Last year's Halloween sales set records, as families splurged on this inexpensive holiday. Expect this year's sales to be a little more modest.