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Report: Small uptick in August sales

Purchase, N.Y. A report released Wednesday by MasterCard Advisors found that, in August, sales in most categories recorded a slight year-over-year uptick compared to the year-over-year performance of July.

According to the SpendingPulse report -- based on aggregate sales activity in the MasterCard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for all other payment forms, including cash and check -- some categories were boosted by back-to-school spending.

“Categories such as apparel and electronics appear to have been helped by the back-to-school season, which tends to peak in August, although some spending in apparel can be pushed back into September as parents delay purchasing fall and winter clothing until cooler weather conditions set in,” said Michael McNamara, VP research and analysis for SpendingPulse.

In addition, he said, the hot and dry conditions in August helped the overall restaurant sector while the continued volatile financial markets performance negatively impacted the luxury sector and, to a lesser extent, the jewelry sector. Tax-free weekends in Florida, Illinois and Massachusetts boosted results as well. “As a result, year-over-year comparisons in electronics, office supplies and apparel benefited,” he said.

Total U.S. apparel sales was back in positive territory in August, up 2.6% year-over-year, following July’s 1.1% decrease. This category, on a year-over-year basis, has been up five out of eight months this year. All sub-sectors except for women’s apparel and men’s apparel posted increases, with the children’s category up a solid 8.4% year-over-year, and family apparel up 4.1%. Footwear posted a modest increase of 0.9%. Following July’s sharp decline, men’s apparel was down only 1.9% in August, while women’s apparel, down 1.9% in July, slipped a little further in August, declining 2.7% year-over-year.

Consumer electronics and appliances showed increases on a year-over-year basis. While the consumer electronics category was up 2.3%, the appliances category recorded a 9.4% increase.

E-commerce sales growth slowed in August to 7.2%, which although well into positive territory, was the smallest year-over-year increase in 2010.