Retail sales fall for third straight month

An empty shopping cart at the parking lot of a Lowe’s store October 17, 2011 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Kai Ryssdal: Remember all those times you've heard me and many others say consumer spending accounts for a huge chunk of the American economy? All right, now say out loud, 'how can you expect me to spend when that very same American economy is still shaky.' To which I say, 'I know!' Retail sales figures for the month of June were announced today. Dismal isn't too strong -- the third straight monthly decline -- something that hasn't happened since the dark days of 2008. Oh, and and it's not just sales that are depressed.

Marketplace's Sally Herships has more.


Sally Herships: Lately it feels like the bad news always comes first.  

Chris Christopher: I’m sorry for being so pessimistic, but that’s how it is. This retail sales report was just a very bad report.

Chris Christopher is senior principal economist with IHS Global Insights. One reason he sounds so down is that the decline in sales started in April, and after those numbers were released the government revised them downwards.

Christopher: So things were worse than we originally thought in April as well.

In case you weren’t already depressed.    

Jim Roberts: Read the newspaper, listen to the news, what do I see? Greece and Spain and all the problems there and how that impacts us as consumers.

Jim Roberts teaches Marketing at Baylor University. He says it’s no wonder consumers are hesitant about spending, and even though gas prices went down last month that doesn’t mean extra cash for us to spend. Roberts says many of us have been paying for gas with money we didn’t have.

Roberts: We’re still spending money on credit cards and so the money -- I’d like to think there’s been a big uptick in savings, but there just hasn’t.

Time for some less-bad news: For those Americans who are financially stability, a lot of the problem could be in our heads. That’s according to Barbara Kahn director of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at Wharton.

Barbara Kahn: I mean if you just lost your job yesterday and didn’t spend any money, well that’s understandable. But if nothing’s really changed in your life, but your spending patterns have radically changed -- why is that?

It’s nerves. But Chris Christopher says if you can, go ahead and take that vacation. Bonus -- you’d be helping to boost the economy.

I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.


Ryssdal: We asked you on Twitter: If you're not spending money on retail, what you are spending it on?

One common answer? On gas. Tweet us @MarketplaceAPM.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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