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Retail

U.S. Consumers Continued to Spend in July While Navigating High Inflation

E-commerce growth sees a hot July amid promotional events, while home-focused spending cools, according to latest Mastercard SpendingPulse report.

8/4/2022
graphic of retail sales increases and decreases for July 2022
U.S. retail spending increases YOY in July, with furnishings and furniture sales softening as consumers shift spending.

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- U.S. retail spending excluding automotive increased +11.2% year-over-year in July, while retail sales excluding automotive and gas rose +9.0%. Notably, e-commerce sales were up 11.7% YOY, a sharp increase after months of softer growth, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment. Rising prices—particularly for necessities such as food and fuel—were a contributing factor, as Mastercard SpendingPulse reflects nominal spending and is not adjusted for inflation.

Spending increases in July outpaced monthly year-over-year growth experienced thus far in 2022, with demand and higher prices both contributing factors. Of note:

Consumers continue to spend, with inflation’s impact varying across sectors: Consumers continue to navigate high inflation as they spend on wants and needs. The Grocery sector, for instance, saw sales up +16.8% YOY in July due primarily to food price increases. On the other hand, Apparel (+16.6%) and Jewelry (+18.6%) sales saw strong demand-driven year-over-year growth, well outpacing sector-specific inflation.

E-commerce sales climb amid major promotional events: While in-store sales remain elevated, up +11.1% YOY/ +13.9% YO3Y, e-commerce posted its first month of double-digit sales growth (+11.7% YOY) since December. E-commerce is up nearly double pre-pandemic levels (+98.5% YO3Y). Online sales have ticked up since the beginning of June, though July’s major promotional events helped entice shoppers to splurge (and save) with online deals.

High season for vacation, with road-trippers seeing some relief at the pump: Travel remains a priority, with Lodging up +29.6% YOY and Airline sales up+13.3% YOY. Fuel & Convenience spending remains elevated (+32.3% YOY / +47.1% YO3Y), though the growth rate is down compared to June – reflecting price declines at the pump.

“Consumers’ purchasing power has been strained by higher prices, particularly for the most fundamental needs-based categories like food and energy,” said Michelle Meyer, U.S. chief economist, Mastercard Economics Institute. “Thus far, nominal spending remains strong as consumers cope with high price inflation. As we continue to look at the strength of the consumer, we will be keenly focused on trends surrounding employment and wage growth.”

“The latest retail trends place an emphasis on consumer choice and passion driven spending – they’re hunting for deals, shopping across channels and ultimately still spending on experiences and goods that make them feel good,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Incorporated. “As retailers grapple with excess inventory and supply chain constraints, it’s likely that the promotional activity seen in July will continue to be an important strategy for retailers.”
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