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Although millions of tax rebate checks hit mailboxes in June, consumer spending remained soft last month, according to the National Retail Federation.
The Washington-based trade group said retail industry sales for June (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose 1.3 percent unadjusted over last year and increased 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month.
"Many consumers have been practical with their tax rebate checks, using them to offset higher prices of gas and food," said NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells. "As retailers enter the back-to-school season, they will have to be creative in finding ways to get consumers to spend on discretionary items."
As further proof that consumers are focusing on necessities, health and personal care stores sales remained solid, increasing 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and 2.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Additionally, sales at general merchandise stores increased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 4.8 percent unadjusted from last year.
Sales at food and beverage stores increased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from May and 3.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.