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Retail Sales Edge Upward After Long Winter

Volume 2, Issue 8
April 30th, 2014
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GirlsConsumer sales have edged upward following severe winter weather that persisted through most of the nation, according to industry statistics.

The National Retail Federation reported that March retail sales, (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants), increased 0.8% adjusted month-to-month and 1.6% unadjusted year-over-year.

“Consumers shed their winter coats last month for fresh, spring merchandise,” said NRF President Matthew Shay. “Retail sales increased in most categories and sectors as consumers purchased new spring attire and home furnishings in hopeful expectation of warmer weather. Sales should continue to remain positive this spring with the approach of Easter and expected tax refunds.”

NRF has forecast that retail sales will grow by 4.1% over the course of this year.

Earlier this month, the NRF/Prosper Insights & Analytics’s Easter Spending Survey reported that the average American consumer will spend $137.46 this Easter holiday on clothing, candy, gifts and more, with total spending reaching $15.9 billion.

The International Council of Shopping Centers saidU.S. chain-store sales posted a gain of 3.6% for the March on a year-over-year basis, representing a rebound from the February pace of 2.2%.

Some retailers said the shift in Easter (April 20, 2014 versus March 31, 2013) had a negative impact on March sales.

“ICSC research estimates that the March Easter shift subtracted about 1% for the industry as a whole from monthly sales growth,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC chief economist, vice president and director of research. “However, that one percentage point will be ‘added back’ to the April pace.”

The NRF report found that building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers’ store sales increased 1.8% seasonally-adjusted month-to- month, and 6.2% unadjusted year-over-year.

Clothing and clothing accessories sales increased 1% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet decreased 2.3% year-over-year. Electronics and appliance stores’ sales slid 1.6% month-to-month and 2% year-over-year, NRF reported.

Furniture and home furnishing sales rose 1% for March and 1% over the past 12 months. General merchandise stores’ sales were up 1.9%, yet decreased slightly 0.2% from the previous year.

Health and personal care store sales increased 0.3% for the month and 4% year-over-year.Nonstore retailer’s sales (including Internet and catalog sales) rose 1.7% for the month and 8% year-over-year.

In a separate report — The NRF-Hackett Associates Global Port Tracker — the federation said it anticipates that import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports will rise 6.1% in April.

“With winter over, retailers are stocking up in anticipation of a busy spring and summer,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy.

Retailers are concerned about West Coast port labor negotiations, Gold said, and are already exploring contingency plans in case a disruption occurs.

The Global Port Tracker reported 1.26 million TEUs handled in February, the latest month where after-the-fact numbers were available. February is historically the slowest month of the year, and the number was down 8.4% from January and 1.4% from February 2013, NRF pointed out.

March was estimated at 1.31 million TEU, up 15% from the same month last year. April is forecast at
1.38 million TEU, up 6.1% from last year; May at 1.44 million TEU, up 3.8%; June at 1.43 million TEU, up 5.5%; July at 1.49 million TEU, up 3.1%, and August at 1.51 million TEU, up 1.2%.

The first half of the year is expected to total 8.2 million TEU, up 5.5% over last year. The total for 2013 was 16.2 million TEU, up 2.3% from 2012’s 15.8 million TEU.

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