Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales rising 1.9% in July.
While the jump was less than expected, excluding autos, the gain was 1.9%, ahead of the 1.2% estimate, CNBC notes.
Electronics and appliance sales saw a huge category jump; monthly sales spiked 22.9%. Sporting goods and book stores saw a 5% decline.
Other winners included clothing & clothing accessories, which increased 5.7%, and bars and restaurants, up 5%.
Motor vehicle parts and dealers saw a 1.2% slide, while Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores saw a 5% decline.
While retailers were hoping for a midsummer shopping surge, July still marks the third month in a row that retail sales have gone up, after plunging 14.7% in April due the pandemic.
“Given continued high unemployment, retail sales in August and in the fall will rely to a large degree on the timing and extent of more government assistance,” Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, told CNBC.
Millions of unemployed Americans were receiving a $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit included in the CARES Act. Now, looking ahead, many lost the supplement at the end of July and eligible Americans may only receive a Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) payment of $300 per week.
Anticipating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy to continue, the NRF notes imports at major U.S. retail container ports during 2020 are expected to see their lowest total in four years.
“The economy is recovering but retailers are being careful not to import more than they can sell,” NRF VP for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Shelves will be stocked, but this is not the year to be left with warehouses full of unsold merchandise. The more Congress does to put spending money in consumers’ pockets and provide businesses with liquidity, the sooner we can get back to normal.”