Are Retail Sales Up or Down?

Sep 16, 2002

Depending on who you believe, retail sales were either increased or decreased in August.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported on Friday that retail sales increased 0.8 percent last month after consecutive month decreases in June and July.

Many of the major retail chains, however, reported that sales were down in August. Further evidence, according to a report by Reuters, is the Lehman Brothers softline retail index. The firm’s measurement of same-store retail sales reported that business was down 1.4 percent in August for stores open at least a year.

Chains such as Wal-Mart and Target reported being below plan for the month but retailers of big ticket items such as autos have been moving inventory aided by year-end model deals and special financing packages.

Moderator’s Comment: What is your assessment of the
current state of retailing?

The government’s tracking of retail performance is generally
viewed as the most accurate because, among other things, it accounts for sales
in companies that are not publicly traded. We tend to be more optimistic about
the retail sales prospects for the coming months than many of our business and
consumer press counterparts. That said, economic and political developments
including a possible war in Iraq make predicting the future a game for losers
(as if it wasn’t already). [George
Anderson – Moderator

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