Amid a background of high energy costs and a sinking stock market, retail figures released Tuesday reveal a murky picture about consumers and their spending habits.
Weekly chain store sales increased by a whopping 4 percent during the second week of June compared with the same time last year, statistics from the International Council of Shopping Centers show.
Yet consumers spent just .2 percent more in May than in April, according to figures released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation. The numbers, however, marked an 8.2 percent increase from May 2004.
“High gas prices really haven’t impacted consumers as much as one might think it would,” said Scott Krugman, the federation’s vice president of public relations.
Patrice Duker, ICSC spokeswoman, said warmer weather, graduations, weddings and Father’s Day have all contributed the 4 percent year-over-year gain and a 1.2 percent gain during the second week of June compared with the first.
Overall, however, Duker said ICSC analysts expect June chain store sales to have a modest rise of between 2.5 percent and 3 percent over May. In comparison, chain store sales in June 2005 posted a 5.2 percent gain from June 2004, Duker said.
Also on Tuesday, the Department of Commerce released its May retail figures that showed a .1 percent increase from April.
That figure includes car sales, which dropped by 1.6 percent in May. Excluding autos, retail sales increased by .5 percent in May compared with April, Commerce figures show.
ICSC figures focus on yearover-year sales of large chain stores, such as Target and Circuit City.
Figures from the National Retail Federation include all retail sales except cars, restaurants and gas stations.
Commerce Department figures include all recorded retail sales in the nation across industries regardless of business size or length of operation.
Analysts said they expected to see these kinds of lower numbers and believe consumer activity will slow.
The question is the extent to which rising interest rates, a lower stock market and a cooling housing market will have on consumer demand.
Consumers in lower income brackets have already made changes to their spending, Duker said. Analysts are looking at middle-income families, to see if they, too, will slow their purchases, Duker said.
“We are looking at that middle market. The concern is how long they can continue their spending and when they slow — which is expected — when they take it and where they take it,” Duker said.
Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s total economic activity.