August Retail Spending Report – Growth Slower Than Expected

By Chad Dixon, Senior Associate

Most Improved – Sales Change over Prior Month

Americans’ retail spending slowed in August as additional unemployment benefits were reduced for millions. Retail sales rose 0.6% in August over prior month. Although August was the fourth straight month of sales growth, it was lower than the expected growth of 1.0%. The report follows data earlier this month showing unemployment of 8.4% in August. With the expiration of the additional $600 unemployment subsidy, Americans are rejoining the workforce.

August is known as the “back to school month,” hence the increase in clothing, electronics, and furniture. With the gradual reopening of restaurant, food and drinking places are also noticing sales growth. However, although grocery store sales are up 9.0% over August 2019, sales are down 1.6% compared to July.

July’s retail sales were also revised down to a 0.9% increase from the 1.2% previously reported. Management at Walmart and Target indicating the decrease in sales in late July and early August could be attributed to the expiration of supplemental unemployment assistance.

Meanwhile, consumers who continue to work from home, are spending much more on home improvement projects, including improving their workspaces. Many of these consumers are saving many by not eating out at restaurants; instead they are buying furniture.

According to research firms Affinity Solutions and Opportunity Insights, debit and credit card data shows that overall spending is down over 7.3% at the end of August, indicating that September could show sluggish sales growth.

As consumer behaviors and retail spending patterns evolve, retail sales are likely to experience categorical surges. Watch for our analysis and predictions as we continue to track trends over the coming months.

Major Retailers Who Have Filed Bankruptcy During the Coronavirus Pandemic

  • Town Sports International (Sept 14), gym chain
  • Century 21 Department Stores (Sept 10), department store with 13 locations
  • Stein Mart (August 12), off-price department store
  • Tailored Brands (August 2), Suiting (Jos. A Bank & Men’s Wearhouse)
  • Lord & Taylor (August 2), nation’s oldest department store
  • California Pizza Kitchen (July 30), pizza-themed restaurant chain
  • Ascena (July 23), Women’s and girls clothing brands
  • Muji (July 11), Japanese retailer of household goods and apparel
  • Sur La Table (July 8), French-inspired cookware retailer
  • Brooks Brothers (July 8), classic suit brand
  • Lucky Brand (July 3), Denim and apparel retailer
  • Cirque du Soleil (June 29), acrobatics and entertainment group
  • CEC Entertainment (June 24), parent company of Chuck E. Cheese
  • GNC (June 23), Vitamin and supplement shop with 3,000 stores
  • 24 Hour Fitness (June 14), Gym with 400 locations
  • Le Pain Quotidien (May 27), French bakery chain
  • Tuesday Morning (May 27), Discount off-price retailer
  • JC Penney (May 16), Department store
  • Stage Stores (May 10), Department store
  • Neiman Marcus (May 7), Luxury department store
  • J. Crew (May 4), Clothing brand
  • Gold’s Gym (May 4), Gym with 700 locations
  • Cinemax Cinemas (April 25), Movie theatre chain
  • True Religion Apparel (April 13), Clothing brand
  • FoodFirst, Bravo, and Brio (April 10), Restaurant chains
  • Apex Parks (April 8), Entertainment and water parks
  • Dean & Deluca (March 31), Gourmet foods retailer

Interested in learning more on the state of retail? Connect with Stream’s retail adisory team, who can provide resources and insights.

About the author:

Chad Dixon is a Senior Associate with Stream’s Greater Los Angeles retail investment team. Chad acts as an advisor to both buyers and sellers of retail assets and brings both an entrepreneurial and analytical mindset to all transactions, maximizing value for clients.

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