Retail sales fell 1.1% in July from the month before, with spending down broadly across categories as concerns about the Delta variant grew.
Retail sales rose briskly in June, as shoppers directed spending toward services, such as dining out and traveling, and away from goods. That shift occurred as more Americans became vaccinated and state and local governments eliminated many Covid-19-related restrictions, some of which have now been reimposed with the recent rise in coronavirus cases.
Retailers and other U.S. businesses are facing uncertainty caused by the Delta variant, as the highly transmissible strain causes setbacks for some companies and data suggest some pullback in spending on items such as air travel and cruises. A University of Michigan survey showed a sharp drop in consumer sentiment during early August. Richard Curtin, the survey’s chief economist, said the decline was due “mainly from dashed hopes that the pandemic would soon end.”