July retail sales are up thanks to apparel and electronics

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July retail sales rebounded from the slow summer start thanks to back-to-school spending on electronics and apparel.

July retail sales by the US Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and 3.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

The NRF found that retail industry sales for July û which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants û rose 4 percent, unadjusted over last year and 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted from June. June retail sales were also revised up from 3.4 percent to 3.8 percent. General merchandise stores sales increased 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted from June and 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

"Sales were particularly strong in general merchandise and I think that the combination of the clearance of summer stuff and the new back-to-school fall merchandise has helped," said Rosalind Wells, chief economist at the NRF, Washington.

Despite flat predictions for apparel, seasonally adjusted month-to-month sales show clothing and clothing accessories increased 1.3 percent from June and 4.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Electronics and appliance stores sales increased 1.0 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and 2.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year, stemming from the back-to-school push in consumer electronics. New mp3 players, laptops and other electronic devices helped boost July sales in this vertical.

Health and personal care stores also did well during the July period, increasing 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 6.3 percent unadjusted over last July.

Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores sales increased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from June and a 5.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Expect these positive numbers to continue as retailers head into the holiday season.

"It gives us hope that going into fall, and into the holidays will be pretty good," Wells added. "We don't have a strong economy, but it is growing."

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