'Consumer spending was weak but is expected to pick up'
“Consumer spending was weak but is expected to pick up as we move through the year,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement.
Retailers lack pricing power, said Kleinhenz, who noted that the latest Consumer Price Index showed prices reversing course in March. Kleinhenz referred to a Labor Department report released on Friday showing that consumer prices declined in March for the first time in 13 months, as lower costs for gasoline and mobile phones offset rising rents and food prices.
“There is no doubt that weak pricing power led to the bumpy period for retailers in the first part of this year,” Kleinhenz said.
According to NRF’s calculations, clothing and accessories and general merchandise saw slight gains in March, while there were declines in building materials and supplies and sporting goods, likely due to winter weather. The sectors with declines in March are up year over year, according to NRF’s data.
Highlights of NRF’s report include:
- Online and other non-store sales increased 0.6% in March and were up an unadjusted 11.4% from a year earlier.
- Sales at general merchandise stores increased 0.3% seasonally adjusted over February and remained even year over year.
- Sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.1% seasonally adjusted over February and 5.3% unadjusted year over year.
- Sales at clothing and accessories stores increased 1% seasonally adjusted from February but declined 2.5% unadjusted year over year.
- Electronics and appliances stores’ sales increased 2.6% seasonally adjusted over February but declined 0.4% unadjusted year over year.
- Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales declined 0.3% from February but increased 3.3% unadjusted year over year.
- Sales at building materials and supplies stores declined 1.5% seasonally adjusted from February but increased 6.3% unadjusted year over year.
- Sporting goods stores’ sales declined 0.8% seasonally adjusted from February and 4.7% unadjusted year over year.
The Commerce Department also released figures for March retail sales on Friday; the department reported a 0.2% decline, due in large part to fewer purchases of automobiles and declining receipts at gasoline service stations.
The department also made a downward revision to February sales, to a 0.3% decline from the previously reported 0.1% gain.