Retail sales grew 0.3 percent in March

WASHINGTON – Retail sales in March increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over February and 3.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year, according to calculations released today by the National Retail Federation. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“Various factors were at play in the first quarter, but we are again seeing a pattern similar to previous years — consumer spending was weak but is expected to pick up as we move through the year,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

“A lack of pricing power continues to plague the retail industry,” Kleinhenz said, noting that Consumer Price Index numbers released today showed prices reversing course in March. “There is no doubt that weak pricing power led to the bumpy period for retailers in the first part of this year.”

On a three-month moving average, retail sales have grown 2.8 percent year-over-year. When looking at business lines, performance in March was again uneven as clothing and accessories and general merchandise saw slight gains while there were declines in building materials and supplies and sporting goods, likely due to winter weather. Nonetheless, the sectors with declines showed increases year-over-year.

A few specifics include:

  • Online and other non-store sales increased 0.6 percent over February and increased 11.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at clothing and accessories stores increased 1 percent seasonally adjusted from February but decreased 2.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at general merchandise stores increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over February and remained even year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliances stores’ sales increased 2.6 percent seasonally adjusted over February but decreased 0.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales decreased 0.3 percent from February but increased 3.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at building materials and supplies stores decreased 1.5 percent seasonally adjusted from February but increased 6.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores’ sales decreased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from February and decreased 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.  
  • Sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over February and increased 5.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

About NRF
The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association. Based in Washington, D.C., NRF represents discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.