Retail Spending Beats Expectations In August, Driven By Gas Prices
Nationwide retail sales beat Wall Street estimates in August, according to data released Thursday by the Census Bureau, increasing month-over-month by 0.6%. Wall Street predicted a bump of just 0.1%.
However, the sales growth is unlikely to translate into increased demand for retail space, as the bulk of the increase came from a 5.2% spike in gas prices.
“The solid increase in headline retail sales in August was not as good as it appears because it was driven by a price-related surge in gasoline station sales while underlying goods and services spending lost momentum, and July’s gain was revised lower,” Oxford Economics Lead U.S. Economist Michael Pearce wrote in a note on Thursday morning.
Consumption is still on track for a strong gain in the third quarter overall, propped up by back-to-school buying and Labor Day weekend shopping sprees. But there are headwinds to further growth in consumer spending, according to Pearce, such as slower job and wage growth, the resumption of student loan repayments and tighter lending standards for most kinds of consumer debt.
Some of the categories within retail that dropped were those that experienced huge demand in recent years as people took up pandemic hobbies or embarked on home improvements.
Compared with a year ago, furniture sales are down 7.8%, while building materials and garden equipment sales are off 4.9%, the bureau reported. Sporting goods stores, hobby shops, musical instrument retailers and bookstores suffered a drop of 1.4% year-over-year, and electronics and appliance store sales were down 1.8%.
Meanwhile, food prices gained 4.3% compared with a year ago while grocery store sales rose 2.2% in the same period, an indicator of inflation's impact on grocery bills.
Retail real estate in the U.S. is experiencing something of a rebound from its former position as the most troubled segment of CRE. Major companies are plowing billions into retail as supply remains limited in many markets nationwide.
Retail availability at midyear was a record-low 4.8%, according to a CBRE report released this week. Although there have been some major retail bankruptcies this year, namely Bed Bath & Beyond and Christmas Tree Shops, the market has remained resilient, the report says.
That is due in large part to a collective break many developers took from building retail in the mid-2010s, leading to a supply shortage today. But that shortage could prevent expansion, CBRE said.
"Continued supply side constraints will limit expansion by retail occupiers, who prefer to wait for prime space rather than invest in lesser trade areas, especially as development costs remain inflated," the report says.