According to data released this week, consumer spending in June failed to take a significant step forward. Americans' overall retail spending rose just 0.4 percent last month, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Excluding spending on automobiles, gasoline and building supplies, core retail sales rose just 0.15 percent — the weakest gain since January. The commerce department says Americans bought more cars, trucks, furniture and clothes, but spent less at restaurants and bars, home improvement stores, and computer and electronic shops.
Scott Bekins, owner of the namesake electronics and appliance store in Grand Haven, said there has been no slowdown here. Not only were his store's June sales up from April and May, Bekins has seen “a significant increase year over year.”
“Sales have been exceeding our expectations,” said Bekins, citing televisions, wireless audio products and motorized shading as big sellers.
Bekins said because of West Michigan's conservative core, we're not as vulnerable to economic swings.
“We're in a pretty well-insulated pocket and I think we're very blessed we don't follow the national trends often,” he said. “We have a fairly conservative, vibrant community — and a community of people who are concerned about shopping local. And we have pretty diverse business around West Michigan, which helps us be not as negatively impacted by trends.”
Bekins said an uptick in new construction and remodeling also drives television and appliance sales.
Spending on home improvements is down in the national numbers, but not necessarily in Northwest Ottawa County, said John Rycenga of Rycenga Lumber in Grand Haven. He said his business saw a 21 percent increase in June sales over last year.
“It's not like we're trending up like we were five, six or seven years ago," Rycenga said. "We haven't caught up to that yet, but we are trending upward.”
Bob Jacobs, manager of the Grand Haven Habitat for Humanity Restore, said business there was also up in June, in both sales and donations.
“I think people enjoy repurposing and recycling,” he said. “I think they're getting more comfortable with the economy and they want to get some new things in their home.”
Rycenga and Jacobs said remodeling and renovation projects are hot — but so is the weather, which can actually have a negative impact on business. Construction workers may cut back on work when heat indices approach 100 degrees, as they have most of this week.
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.