SpendingPulse: Specialty apparel and luxury up in July

Purchase, N.Y. -- Apparel continued to show gains in July, while housing-related sectors such as electronics, appliances, and furniture remained sluggish, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, a macroeconomic report tracking national retail and services sales. (The data estimates total U.S. retail sales across all payment forms including cash and check.)

In other findings, auto parts and service posted its first decline after five months of growth.

“Sector weaknesses are the result of a variety of drivers,” said Michael McNamara, VP research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. “The sluggish housing market is reflected in a sixth consecutive month of losses in furniture and furnishings.”

McNamara added that  consumers were paying about $1.00 more per gallon of gasoline in July 2011 than they were in the same period a year ago.

“At about 10.9 billion gallons pumped this July, that price increase is redirecting almost $11 billion per month towards gasoline spending and away from other areas of consumer spending, or savings,” he said.

In other SpendingPulse findings:

  • Online sales were up 14% over the year-ago period, the 24th straight month of year-over-year growth, and ninth consecutive month of double-digit growth, with improvement in every subcategory except for electronics. The 14% year-over-year growth for the overall category was the smallest increase for e-commerce since February 2011, and is an expected seasonal slowing, the report noted.
  •  Specialty apparel continued to do well, and was up 6.2% over July 2010. It was slightly better than the year-over-year results for May and June.
  • The SpendingPulse Luxury Index (excluding Jewelry) showed particularly robust growth. Up 11.6% year over year, the largest increase since April 2010. The SpendingPulse Luxury category includes luxury sales at high-end restaurants, food stores, department stores and general apparel categories.
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