March Sales Show Consumers Confident But Cautious
From clothing and electronics to home furnishings and building materials, retail sales in March increased across the board for the ninth straight month.
That’s according to the National Retail Federation, which reported that retail industry sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) for March increased 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from February and 3.9 percent unadjusted year over year.
“Shoppers last month were eager to take advantage of retailers’ spring promotions on everything from apparel to outdoor furniture,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “While current indicators point to a more confident consumer, increasing gas prices and a cramped job market could hamper consumer spending during the upcoming summer months, a key time of year for retailers.”
NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said improving financial situations, including the temporary payroll tax cut, wage gains and a strengthening labor market, likely supported March spending gains. “If gasoline prices can stabilize over the next few months, consumer spending may continue to grow,” he said, “but it remains to be seen what consumers will cut out of their budgets because of the cost of filling up their tank.”
March retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted over February and 7.3 percent unadjusted year over year.
Sales at grocery stores increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 4.1 percent unadjusted year over year. Health and personal care stores sales increased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over February and 5.1 percent unadjusted over last year.
Warmer weather helped building material, garden equipment and supplies dealers see increased sales last month, increasing 2.2 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month and 5.5 percent unadjusted over last year. Consumers also stocked up on new spring attire, boosting clothing and clothing accessory stores sales 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 3.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
Electronics and appliance stores also saw solid gains; sales increased 2.1 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month and 3.6 percent unadjusted over last year in those stores. Also benefitting from warmer weather, furniture and home furnishing stores sales increased 3.6 percent seasonally adjusted month to month and 3.8 percent unadjusted year over year.
NRF’s global membership includes retailers of all sizes, formats and channels of distribution including department stores, discount retailers, grocers, chain restaurants and drug stores. Membership also includes industry partners from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad.