Economy Watch: Retail Sales Dip in May

By Dees Stribling

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons user southareapictures.

U.S. retail and food service sales dropped 0.3 percent in May compared with April, the Census Bureau reported on Wednesday. That’s the weakest monthly report for retail sales in more than a year and a half. Compared with the same month last year, however, retail sales were still up by 3.8 percent.

As usual, some retail categories fared better than others. A handful of categories experienced month-over-month sales gains in May, such as furniture, up 0.4 percent, and apparel, up 0.3 percent. Grocery stores, as well as health and personal care stores, both eked out 0.1 percent gains for the month, though perhaps because of price increases.

The biggest loser for the month was electronics retailing, with sales off 2.8 percent. Department stores and even general merchandise stores—the likes of Walmart and Target—recorded monthly losses as well, though fairly small.

Compared with a year ago, most retail categories enjoyed rising sales, including an usually strong showing for building supplies and garden equipment, which gained 10.8 percent,. Electronic store sales were down, however (1.8 percent), as were department stores (3.7 percent) and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, off 4.7 percent for the year.

Internet-based retail sales were up, as usual, according to the Census Bureau. Up 0.8 percent for the month in May, and 10.2 percent compared with a year ago.

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