Consumers need more proof that the economy is slowly turning around as April retail sales show people continuing to cut back on their discretionary spending. According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales for April (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) decreased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from March and dropped 1.7 percent unadjusted over last year.
April 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) decreased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted over March and decreased 9.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
“A depressed labor market and lack of consumer confidence continues to play a role in what people buy and how much they spend,” said Rosalind Wells, Chief Economist for NRF. “Noticeable changes in consumer spending will take some time as the economy continues to rebuild itself through the rest of the year.”
Spring weather helped get many people out of their home and into stores to buy new garden and sporting goods. Sales at building material, garden equipment and supplies dealers increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from March but decreased 10.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores sales increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month but decreased 2.4 percent unadjusted over last April.
Thanks in part to consumers focusing on necessities instead of discretionary items, sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 5.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
Even with an Easter holiday in April, people still cut back on groceries, apparel and gifts. Sales at electronic and appliance stores decreased 2.8 percent seasonally adjusted from March and 11.9 percent unadjusted from last year. Clothing and clothing accessories stores sales decreased 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 3.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Grocery stores sales also decreased 1.1 percent seasonally adjusted from last month but increased 0.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry’s key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees – about one in five American workers – and 2008 sales of $4.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com.