NEW YORK (AP) — Spending at small businesses rose in August, beating July's growth rate and outshining sales at retailers overall, according to a survey released Friday by MasterCard and Wells Fargo & Co.
Sales of merchandise and food for smaller retailers rose 6.8 percent in August compared to the same month last year, beating July's 6 percent year-over-year increase, but down from June's 8 percent growth. Over the past three months, small business sales have risen 6.9 percent compared with the same period in 2011 and for the year-to-date they are up 8 percent, according to the report.
Excluding gasoline, small business retail sales rose 6.4 percent. None of the report's figures include sales of cars and light trucks.
"There are a couple of relatively positive signs here," Michael McNamara, the head of SpendingPulse, MasterCard's retail sales data service. "High-tier categories like jewelry are struggling, but restaurants are doing all right and back-to-school sales are holding up pretty well."
The report defines small retailers, which range from restaurants to hardware and grocery stores, as having annual sales of less than $35 million and fewer than 200 employees.
Total retail sales, including those at larger stores, rose 5.1 percent last month.
McNamara noted that the sales growth gap between small retailers and retailers overall appears to have shrunk. In August, small retailers outperformed retailers overall by just 1.7 percentage points, down from 4.6 percentage points in June.
Meanwhile, the government said Friday that August retail sales rose for the second-straight month, as consumers paid higher gas prices and bought more cars and trucks.
According to the Commerce Department report, overall retail sales increased a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent in August over July. Excluding automotive sales and gas sales, retail sales rose just 0.1 percent, falling below July's 0.8 percent growth. Both of those figures included sales from large chain stores.
The reports are compiled from different sources of information.
MasterCard and Wells Fargo compile their figures from payments made through the MasterCard processing system and estimates of other types of payment including cash and checks. The sales come from more than 1 million retail locations and account for about a third of total U.S. retail sales. The companies then use those numbers to project estimates for small businesses spending overall, not just transactions involving MasterCard.
The Commerce Department's report is compiled from questionnaires sent to about 5,000 companies.