Retail sales were down 0.2 percent in April seasonally adjusted from March but up 5.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said May 15.
“Slower tax refunds and weather may have been key factors impacting April’s numbers, but the fundamentals remain positive, particularly in long-term comparisons,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation.
He cited flooding in the middle of the country and blizzards and extreme temperature swings elsewhere, along with a soft housing market that impacted sales of furniture, appliances and building materials.
“Despite there being a lot of volatility in the data from month to month, the long-term comparisons look good and the three-month average in particular is getting stronger,” Kleinhenz said. “We think we remain on track to meet our projections.”
The shift of Easter and Passover from March to April this year gave less of a month-over-month bump in spending than expected but contributed to April’s strong year-over-year increase, he said.
As of April, the three-month moving average was up 2.9 percent over the same period a year ago, compared with 2.6 percent in March.
April’s results build on gains of 1.1 percent month-over-month and 1 percent year-over-year seen in March. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gas stations and restaurants.
The National Retail Federation’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said May 15 that overall April sales — including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants — were down 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted from March but were up 3.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
The results come as NRF’s preliminary forecast projects that retail sales during 2019 will increase between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent to more than $3.8 trillion. The forecast is subject to revision as more data is released in the coming months.
Specifics from key retail sectors during April include the following:
- Online and other nonstore sales were up 11.9 percent year-over-year but down 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Health and personal care stores were up 6.1 percent year-over-year but down 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Grocery and beverage stores were up 4.6 percent year-over-year and up 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- General merchandise stores were up 4.4 percent year-over-year and up 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 3.9 percent year-over-year but down 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Building materials and garden supply stores were up 3.3 percent year-over-year but down 1.9 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 0.7 percent year-over-year and unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Electronics and appliance stores were down 3.4 percent year-over-year and down 1.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
- Sporting goods stores were down 4.7 percent year-over-year but up 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP and supporting one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans.