Continued growth in Apparel, eCommerce, Grocery, and Luxury were joined by the return to positive territory of the Hardware, Restaurant, and Automotive Repair sectors in August, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, a macroeconomic report tracking national retail and services sales.

While some of the growth was helped by easy comparisons with the Summer of 2010 the results still demonstrated continued consumer spending patterns in spite of the debt debate in Washington, the volatility on Wall Street, or Hurricane Irene. 

“Even taken together, these factors have not been able to derail the U.S. consumer,”  said Michael McNamara, VP of research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse.

McNamara noted that while certain sectors of discretionary spending with a heavy concentration on the Eastern seaboard were impacted by Irene, on a national scale, the hurricane did not throw the American consumer off course in August.

“On the east coast, Hurricane Irene primarily impacted the last Saturday of the month. This last Saturday in August typically accounts for about 4 – 4.5 % of the total sales for the month. The hurricane also benefitted some sectors such as Groceries and Building materials.  Finally the hurricane may have shifted some discretionary sector sales from August to September,” added McNamara.

Back-to-School shows an increase of 3.0% in 2011:

The SpendingPulse Back-to-School sales index shows a year-over-year increase of 3.0% compared to the July-August time period in 2010. This index aggregates the sales performance for Children’s Apparel, Family Apparel, Department Stores, Office Supplies and Drug Stores.  The 3.0% increase is the largest year-over-year increase since 2006 when sales increased by 6.2%.  The state tax holidays that generally support back to school spending mostly occurred in the first half of the month of August,  and they appeared to help stimulate retail activity.  There has been some relative strength in the Apparel categories while Office supplies are generally lagging.  Note though that the Office Supply category can generate late back-to-School season sales.