Retail Sales Slip, But Department Stores See Boost

Department stores got a slight reprieve from months of sales declines.

Retail sales kept falling in June and apparel took the brunt of it.

Seasonally adjusted sales for apparel and accessories specialty retailers fell 0.1 percent in June to $21.5 billion, compared with $21.6 billion in May, when sales grew slightly. But compared with June of last year, sales at apparel and accessories retailers rose 0.4 percent, according to new Census Bureau data.

Sales the specialty sector for the last six months however remain flat.

In a change of pace, department stores got a reprieve from months of sales declines with a 0.4 percent increase in sales, to $57.2 billion, compared with $56.9 billion in May. Department store sales since January were down a total of 4.7 percent, and sales in June were off 3.9 percent from a year ago.

Sales by nonstore retailers, a category that includes web sites and mail order houses, rose 0.4 percent to $51.6 billion last month from $51.4 billion in May.

Retailers are having trouble finding traction with consumers even as prices fall. Apparel prices declined 0.1 percent in June and were 0.7 percent lower than a year earlier. Overall price inflation for June was also flat, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But things may be looking somewhat better for retail after months of sales declines and traffic woes. Target on Thursday upped its second-quarter guidance after seeing store traffic improve over the last two months and budget-friendly retailers such as Uniqlo and Aritzia have both reported climbing sales and profits.

The National Retail Federation is also projecting a 10 percent increase in sales during back-to-school season, and expects spending to hit $83.6 billion from $75.8 billion last year.

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