Consumers seem to be a little more upbeat this year than they were last year. But is this reflected in the most recently released retail sales numbers? N.C. State University extension economist Mike Walden answers.
“We just have retail sale numbers for the entire summer — June, July and August. And what we can do is compare those retail sales numbers for this summer, 2010, to those for last summer, 2009, and see what’s happened to retail sales and where people are spending and where they are not spending.
“Good news is retail sales were higher this summer — about 5 percent over last summer. In terms of where people really increased the most their spending: electronics. Clearly, that was the leader. People spent much, much more on electronics, also appliance stores and also on online retailers.
“There were average gains for spending for vehicles and parts, sporting goods and hobby stores.
“At the other side of the coin though there was small gains — smaller than average gains — for furniture sales, restaurants, supermarkets, clothing, health and personal care stores and department stores.
“The bottom line here, I think, is the consumer continues to be dazzled by electronics. Despite the recession we want to buy new electronics. But the consumer is also being very frugal, and they are showing that frugality in areas like — as I said — furniture, restaurants and clothing.”