Retail Sales for Small Businesses Slows in July

Female Shoppers
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Female Shoppers

Spending at small retailers in the U.S. slowed in July from the same time last year, reaching the lowest growth level for the last 12 months, according to a new report.

The study comes as overallretail sales rose in July for the first time in four months.

The report from SpendingPulse and released by MasterCard Advisors, said small business retail spending levels were at 6 percent in July, down from 8.3 percent at the same time last year. July's sales figure was also down from this June's 8 percent.

Despite the lower number, retail experts say there's little cause for concern.

"I don't think you can read that much into this," said Michael McNamara, VP of MasterCard SpendingPulse and a retail analyst.

"I would say that things are holding their own with no major problems," McNamara added. "In fact, small businesses are still outpacing bigger retailers in sales."

According to the report, small business retail growth was at 9.1 percent for the first quarter of 2012. McNamara said the real test for retail sales lies ahead.

"Back-to-school season starts to kick in at the end of July and rolls into August," McNamara said. "That's going to be the more important month to track sales."

As for what might be causing any kind of spending slowdown, McNamara said that consumers are picking and choosing their buying days.

"What we've seen is that people are waiting to spend on events, like Easter, or state tax holidays. Those events are more important when the economy is slower," McNamara said.

Other findings include:

  • When gasoline sales are removed, the sales growth rate dropped about a half point to 5.4 percent. Gasoline prices have now declined to almost 6 percent below last July’s gasoline prices.
  • The food services share of total retail sales held steady from June to July this year and declined about 1 percent from the July 2011 share.
  • When food services, autos and gasoline are removed from retail, the growth rate slips to 5.8 percent vs. July 2011.

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