Retail sales still growing despite tariff uncertainty

Retail sales continue to grow in 2018. KARA DRISCOLL/STAFF
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Retail sales continue to grow in 2018. KARA DRISCOLL/STAFF

Retail sales continued their upward trend in August, despite growing consumer concerns over the trade war. But economists say the the retail industry isn’t in the clear.

August’s retail sales came in at 5 percent higher than August year-over-year, a 0.1 percent increase from July, excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants, according to a release from NRF. There have been strong increases in retail sales in 2018, as the average households continue to have extra disposable income during a strong economy.

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“Consumers are still in the driver’s seat,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Retail sales remain strong thanks to a solid labor market, accelerating wage growth and consumer optimism, which helps to power the consumer spending gains we are seeing.”

But increased worries about the growing trade war are starting to shake consumer confidence, as tariffs lead to an increase in costs, especially construction.

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“Clearly, household spending is resilient and a contributor to third-quarter GDP growth, however, uncertainty over tariffs is creating anxiety and could fuel material changes in consumer spending,” Kleinhenz said.

While the retail sales were up, the U.S. Census Bureau’s data shows overall sales, including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants, decreased 0.1 percent from July, but remained up 6.6 percent year-over-year.

Online sales once again drove the increases, with a 9.3 percent increase since last year.


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