Nightmare at the Mall: Brick-and-Mortar Retail Totally Loses it

Saturday, August 13, 2016
By Paul Martin

by Wolf Richter
WolfStreet.com
August 12, 2016

Stunning acceleration of a trend.

On the surface, it was the same lackadaisical data we’ve become inured to in this wondrous economy. But beneath the surface, there lurked a nightmare for the already struggling brick-and-mortar retailers.

Total retail sales in July, at $457.7 billion, remained stubbornly flat from June, and ticked up a measly 2.3% from a year ago, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading day differences, but not inflation, according to the Commerce Department.

As crummy as it was, it was propped up by sales of motor vehicles and parts, the largest category at 21% of total retail sales. They rose 1.1% for the month and 2.4% year-over-year to $93.2 billion. Auto sales have been booming. In terms of unit sales, they set an all-time record last year, funded by cheap debt and loosy-goosy underwriting standards; so comparisons this year are on top of a year that may be hard or impossible to beat for a while, with the industry already talking about a “car recession.”

And here’s what else propped up retail sales: Sales by “non-store retailers,” which includes e-commerce, soared 14.1% from July last year to $47.7 billion, now accounting for 10.4% of total retail sales. Their share has doubled since 2002.

The Rest…HERE

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