Sales were higher on a year-over-year basis, led by a $4.2 billion, or 8.9%, increase in non-store sales. Gasoline sales were up by $2.3 billion, or 6.8%, and building and garden supply sales were up by $2.1 billion, or 7.4%. On the downside, sales at electronics and appliance stores were down by $264 million, or 3.2%, department store sales were down by $147 million, or 1.1%, while sales at sports and hobby stores were down by $130 million, or 1.8%. Although department store sales are still down from a year ago, the decline has slowed noticeably since the end of last year.
Today’s report is further justification for no rate hike tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what the Fed says about winding down its balance sheet and when they plan to begin.