Buoyed by autos, Aug. retail sales surge

September 12, 2014

WASHINGTON (9/15/14)--Retail sales climbed rapidly in August, with the majority of the gain driven by auto sales, according to numbers from the Commerce Department Friday.

Total sales ramped up 0.6%, which is the fastest pace since April, though that number falls to 0.3% when excluding auto sales, which jumped 1.5% for the month, the largest increase since March ( Sept. 12).

In addition to autos, the uptick in retail sales was fueled by miscellaneous retailers and building supply stores, while department stores and gas stations experienced declines for the month.

Excluding automobiles, overall retail sales, which account for one-third of consumer spending, has climbed 4.1% higher since this time last year.

"The August retail sales report posted a much more positive picture of sales growth than the previous one," said Scott Hoyt, Moody's analyst ( Sept. 12). "Not only did sales rise at a healthy pace, with non-auto sales exceeding expectations, but material upward revisions to June and July removed the slowing trend from the data."

Upward revisions from previous months were widespread, including in department stores, sporting goods and hobby stores, auto dealers, nonstore retailers and apparel stores.

In August, auto dealers, drugstores, restaurants and nonstore retailers led the increase in growth, while department stores and gas stations posted sales below their year-ago levels.