Retail sales increased for a third straight month in July, though at a slower pace than expected. While the total value of retail purchases is back above pre-pandemic levels, with July purchases up 2.7 percent year over year, the moderation in monthly activity to 1.2%, versus 7.5% in June, shows the path to recovery remains steep. Bloomberg’s survey of economists had forecast a 2.1% gain for the month. Meanwhile, alternative data showing real-time retail activity, such as OpenTable seated diners, illustrates the challenges confronting consumer-facing retail establishments, particularly restaurants.
Our chart of the day shows OpenTable seated diners surged in mid-June as much of the economy rushed to reopen. Setbacks in containing Covid-19 have since resulted in a plateauing of seated diners to a level that remains more than 50% lower than this time last year. The online restaurant booking service’s new CEO, Debby Soo, said the data suggests about 25% of restaurants will likely close permanently.