Building material sales hold steady

Back-to-school sales lifted the latest Commerce Department report on monthly retail sales for August, which had its best showing in five months. The back-to-school crowd couldn't lift the home channel's month-to-month numbers, however.

Overall, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for August came to an adjusted $363.7 billion, an increase of 0.4% from the previous month, and up 3.6% August 2009.

The adjusted advanced estimate for building material dealers and garden equipment and supplies dealers for the month of August were $23.3 billion, unchanged from July, but up 4.9% from $22.2 billion in August 2009.

On a non-adjusted basis, building material dealers, hardware stores and paint and wallpaper stores slipped in July, the latest month of available data for the latter two classifications.

On an unadjusted basis, preliminary estimates for hardware stores (NAICS code 44413) were $1.621 billion, down from $1.726 billion in June, but up from $1.591 billion in July 2009.

Paint and wallpaper stores, also a subset of the 444 sector, showed preliminary sales of $783 million in July, down from $800 million in June, and down from $805 million in July 2009.

The larger category of building material and garden equipment and suppliers dealers, (classification 444), which includes the hardware stores group, was estimated in July to reach $25.581 billion, down from $28.411 billion in June, but up from $24.867 billion in July 2009.

"Most Americans are in a much better financial position than a year ago, but they are still spending cautiously, looking for bargains and comparing prices before buying,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

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