RETAIL sales flat in July; big drop in gasoline sales masks strength elsewhere

Tuesday, August 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sales at the nation's retailers were flat in July for the second month in a row as consumers, worried about their jobs, shopped selectively.

The Commerce Department's report Tuesday showed that much of the lackluster performance came from a record drop in sales at gasoline stations, reflecting lower prices at the pump. Sales at automobile dealerships also fell.

But that masked strength elsewhere, including sales of sporting goods, health and personal care products, and clothes, which all posted healthy gains. Consumers also ate out more last month.

Tuesday's report was a bit better than many analysts were predicting. They had forecast that total retail sales would drop by 0.2 percent in July.

Economists say that layoffs, eroding consumer confidence and stock market volatility contributed to shoppers being more choosy.