New data from the National Retail Federation shows that core retail sales in U.S. rose in July even as overall sales reported by the Census Bureau remained flat on a monthly basis.
Both calculations showed strong year-over-year gains as consumers kept shopping despite high inflation.
Strong consumer demand in the U.S. has driven record imports and contributed to sky-rocketing freight rates throughout the pandemic. This latest data shows that high consumer spending levels are sustaining even as the container shipping market has been showing signs of easing.
“Retail sales grew in July, supported by declines in prices at the gas pump and moderately lower inflation,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Consumers are adapting to higher prices by prioritizing essentials like food and back-to-school items, and retailers are working hard to absorb the impact of higher costs and help customers stretch their hard-earned dollars.”
The NRF is predicting that retail imports at the nation’s top ports are expected to slow “significantly” over the remainder of the year, but 2022 cargo volumes should still see a net gain over 2021’s record as first half volumes were up 5.5 percent compared to last year. In fact, this past May marked the largest number of container imported in a single month since it began tracking imports in 2002 as many retailers brought in cargo early.
“Retail sales were up considerably [in July] compared with a year ago even though consumers are more discerning in this economic environment,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Consumer spending was an encouraging signal as the economy kicked off the third quarter. Nonetheless, inflation is still disturbingly high even as it eases and is the most important challenge for consumers and retailers.”
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