RAPAPORT... U.S. jewelry store sales rose 0.6 percent year on year to $1.998 billion in July 2012, according to the government's monthly retail trade report. While the sales increase was mediocre at best, considering the tough retail environment, at least jewelry price inflation for July was lower, falling 3 percent year on year. Jewelry store sales so far this year have improved 4.3 percent year on year to $15.4 billion, while the average consumer price index (CPI) for jewelry is up 2 percent to 178.1 points.
Looking at the broader retail environment, the U.S. reported August retail sales today in which department store sales rose 2.7 percent year on year to $15.2 billion. All retail and food services sales in August jumped 4.7 percent year on year to $406.7 billion, with healthy increases in sales from automobile dealers and nonstore retailers. Retail trade sales rose 4.4 percent from August 2011.
In a separate report, the National Retail Federation (NRF) concluded that the retail industry demonstrated strength and resiliency during this fragile economic time. NRF's president Matthew Shay said, “However, consumers and retail companies continue to face many questions and challenges, from stubbornly high unemployment and stagnant incomes to depressed housing prices and the looming fiscal cliff, all playing into overall economic uncertainty and declining consumer confidence.”
“Adding to this anxiety, retailers are now preparing for a potential labor disruption at the East and Gulf Coast ports, which may interfere with the all-important holiday shopping season,” Shay said. “NRF continues to reiterate its calls on management and labor to continue their negotiations up to and beyond the September 30 contract deadline. The last thing this economy needs right now is a work stoppage at the ports.”
NRF's chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said, “While retailers continue to witness sustained sales growth, consumers remain cautious about their discretionary expenditures. Consumers have carried much of the growth during the economic recovery, despite high food and gas costs. Though the economy isn’t backsliding, growth continues to be a sore point.”
The NRF observed that clothing and clothing accessories stores' sales increased 7.8 percent year on year, while electronics and appliance stores’ sales decreased 2.1 percent. Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales increased 9.3 percent, general merchandise stores’ sales rose 0.7 percent and nonstore retailers along with sporting goods, hobby, book and music store sales all increased 6.6 percent.