Retail sales grew for the fourth month in a row in August, but the expected lift from back-to-school spending was not as great as anticipated. Retail sales rose by 0.6% from July to August, and by 0.1% compared to a year ago, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday. Analysts had expected a 1% monthly gain. The muted bounce was most likely, in part, because of the loss of the $600 weekly federal unemployment assistance at the end of July for many consumers.
Back-to-school shoppers also appear to have prepared for more home schooling, as the clothing segment showed. Clothing sales dropped by 23.5% year over year, following a 21.9% decline in July and, before that, a 25.4% decrease in June. With many retailers using the back-to-school season as a litmus test, this short stabilization range may help retailers as they plan ahead to the holiday season.