CALABASAS, CA-“Retail sales advanced at a tepid pace in July as consumers maintained a cautiously optimistic stance in the face of mixed economic news,” writes Hessam Nadji, SVP and managing director, research and advisory services at Marcus & Millichap Real estate Investment Services, in the company’s latest Research Brief on the sector. “Limited risk tolerance and fragile psyches remain a hallmark of the recession, reiterating that a transition to a consumer-led recovery may still be slow in forming.”

Nadji’s assessment would get no argument from the National Retail Federation, which in its own assessment of July’s results calls them “a mixed bag.” Excluding car dealerships, gas stations and restaurants, July retail sales increased 0.3% seasonally adjusted from June and 5% unadjusted year-over-year.

“Consumers continue to grind forward in July, marking 13 consecutive months of retail sales gains,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said last week said. “However consumers alone can’t be expected to shoulder the burden of the economy. Fiscal and monetary policy uncertainties combined with stagnant economic and employment conditions continue to breed a volatile market with extreme swings in consumer spending. The economy can’t seem to maintain any amount of momentum. We just can’t seem to pull ourselves up.”

Nadji notes that the retail market—“positively performing but still soft”—is likely to weigh on the Federal Reserve’s timing as the central bank considers winding down the latest round of quantitative easing. There’s also the effect that the pacing of retail sales recovery has had on demand for space.

Despite the positive momentum—retail sales are now in fact 13% above their pre-recessionary peak—“space demand for retail locations has only inched up 2.4%, reflecting some continued weakness by local retailers relative to their national and regional peers as well as the significant supply overhang generated during the housing boom,” writes Nadji. “Retailers will continue to absorb dark space this year, causing vacancies to decrease 50 basis points to 7.9%.”

The gradually improving retail picture has contributed to a more rapid rebound in the industrial sector, although Nadji notes that non-store sales, led by Internet retailers, have lent especially strong support, along with “a resurgent manufacturing sector.” Accordingly, he projects that vacancy in the industrial segment will dip to 8.4%, the lowest figure since the recession began.

“Demand for big-box distribution locations has expanded beyond traditional tenants, such as third-party logistics services, freight forwarders and other trade-related activities, to include a growing cadre of manufacturers, e-commerce companies, fulfillment centers, and home goods and food suppliers,” according to a Marcus & Millichap report on industrial. “ Multi-modal mega-distribution hubs, submarkets near key seaports, air cargo and railroad transit locations, and modern class A warehouse facilities remain the locus of industrial demand.”

That’s given gateway and inland port markets a decided edge in terms of recovery. “Similarly, investors have focused acquisitions on core assets in primary markets; however, recent transaction trends reflect a notable uptick in tertiary markets where higher yields and stronger revenue growth opportunities have attracted investors,” the report states.