March Retail Sales Gains Are ‘Very Encouraging’ And ‘Set the Stage’ For Further Improvements This Year

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Retail sales were up 1 percent in March seasonally adjusted from
February and up 0.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year, the National
Retail Federation said today. The numbers exclude automobile dealers,
gasoline stations and restaurants.

“March’s numbers are very encouraging and set the stage for improved
expectations for the economy in the coming months, especially since the
first quarter is typically weak,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz
said. “These numbers boost first-quarter performance and suggest a
strong consumer. It is clear that underlying consumer fundamentals
including job and wage growth and healthy household balance sheets
continue to support spending. Consumers were busy in March after
weaker-than-expected spending earlier.”

Kleinhenz said the numbers could have been better if not for cold
weather early in March and changes in the timing of two key religious
holidays: “The change of seasons is always a factor because of the
weather, and a later Easter and Passover this year mean holiday-related
sales that took place in March last year won’t come until April this
year and sizably impact year-over-year comparisons.”

As of March, the three-month moving average was up 2.6 percent over the
same period a year ago. March’s results make up for a revised monthly
loss of 0.8 percent seen in February and build on February’s
year-over-year gain of 2.5 percent.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said
today that overall March sales – including auto dealers, gas stations
and restaurants – were up 1.6 percent seasonally adjusted from February
and up 3.6 unadjusted year-over-year. The release of retail sales data
for December through March has been delayed as the Bureau works through
a backlog caused by the government shutdown earlier this 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 March include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 9.2 percent year-over-year
    and up 1.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 1.6 percent year-over-year and
    up 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • General merchandise stores were down 0.5 percent year-over-year but up
    0.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were down 0.7 percent
    year-over-year but up 0.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 1 percent
    year-over-year but up 1.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were down 1.1 percent year-over-year but
    up 1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 2.6 percent
    year-over-year but up 2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 4.1 percent year-over-year
    but up 0.5 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 10.8 percent year-over-year and down
    0.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

About NRF

The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade
association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and
ideas that help retail thrive. From its headquarters in Washington,
D.C., NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy. 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. For over a century, NRF has been a voice for every retailer
and every retail job, educating, inspiring and communicating the
powerful impact retail has on local communities and global economies.



J. Craig Shearman (855) NRF-PRESS