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Clothing helps boost US retail sales in August

Sales at US clothing stores have again helped to lift total retail sales during August, albeit at a much slower pace than previous months.

August retail sales increased 0.1% seasonally adjusted over July and 5% year-over-year as the economy continued to grow despite concerns about the growing trade war, according to figures from the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The August numbers, which exclude automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants, include a 9.3% rise year-over-year in online and other non-store sales, which were up 0.7% on July seasonally adjusted.

The numbers are based on data from the US Census Bureau, which said overall August sales – including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – were down 0.1% seasonally adjusted from from July but up 6.6% year-over-year.

Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores increased 6.2% year-over-year but were down 1.7% from July seasonally adjusted, while sporting goods stores showed the only year-over-year decrease, down 4%, but were up 0.2% from July seasonally adjusted.

The August results build on improvement seen in July – which was up 1.3% monthly and 6.4% year-over-year – albeit it at a much slower rate. The three-month moving average was up 4.9% over the same period a year ago, topping NRF's forecast that 2018 retail sales will grow between 3.8% and 4.4% over 2017.

"Consumers are still in the driver's seat," says NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. "Retail sales remain strong thanks to a solid labour market, accelerating wage growth and consumer optimism, which helps to power the consumer spending gains we are seeing. 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."

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