Economy Watch: Retail Sales Dip in August

Despite a decline in sales for the month, most categories of retailers are enjoying higher sales in 2017 than last year, according to the Census Bureau's latest report.

Census Bureau retail sales 0817U.S. retail and food service sales were down 0.2 percent in August compared with the previous month, the Census Bureau reported. The change from June to July 2017 was revised from up 0.6 percent to up 0.3 percent. Compared with August 2016, however, overall sales increased 3.2 percent.

A drop in car sales, which were off 1.6 percent for the month, dragged the overall monthly figures down. With car sales factored out of the total, retail and food service sales were actually up 0.2 percent for the month.

Other losing retail categories for August were clothing stores, which lost 1 percent in sales, as well as building material and garden equipment stores, off 0.5 percent. Nonstore (Internet) retailers saw sales drop 1.1 percent for the month, which might be an anomaly, since Internet sales have almost never gone down on a monthly or annual basis.

Compared with last year, most kinds of retailers are enjoying higher sales. Building supply stores have experienced a 7.5 percent increase since last year, and furniture stores saw a 5.4 percent increase. Internet sales were up 8.4 percent. By contrast, electronic stores suffered a 3.5 percent decline in sales compared with last year, and department store sales were off 0.8 percent.