Retail News

March Retail Sales Indicate Confident, but Cautious Consumer, According to NRF

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 13, 2011 – From clothing and electronics to home furnishings and building materials, retail sales in March increased across the board for the ninth straight month.

According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales (which exclude 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 NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

“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.”

“Improving financial situations including the temporary payroll tax cut, wage gains and a strengthening labor market likely supported March spending gains,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

“If gasoline prices can stabilize over the next few months, consumer spending may continue to grow, 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 today 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.

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. 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.

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.