Retail sales stabilized in April as measured by the National Retail Federation, whose data doesn’t include restaurant, auto or gas station sales.
NRF’s calculation of retail sales showed April was up 0.6% from March and up 2% unadjusted year over year.
In March, sales were down 0.7% month over month but up 3.4% year over year (Y/Y). NRF’s numbers were up 3.7% unadjusted year over year on a three-month moving average as of April.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that overall retail sales in April were up 0.4% from March and up 1.6% year over year. In March, the bureau had said that sales were down 0.7% month over month but were up 2.4% Y/Y.
“Retail sales rebounded in April, reflecting consumer resilience in the face of elevated economic uncertainty,” commented NRF President Matthew Shay. “Moderating price levels, continued labor market strength and wage gains have increased consumers’ ability to spend.”
Inflation and mixed economic reports continue to concern consumers, he added “However, they remain cautious and concerned about the current economic environment. Retailers continue to provide competitive pricing and convenience to help cost-sensitive consumers stretch their budgets.”
NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz, also noted that retail customers are showing caution while continuing to buy various consumer goods.
“Consumers remained engaged in April. Shoppers are being selective and price-sensitive, but we continue to expect that spending will see modest gains through the course of the year.”
Kleinhenz observed that year-over-year sales growth slowed, which he offered “was partly because of upward revisions to last year’s data but also an early indication that credit conditions are tightening, and excess savings are shrinking.”
According to the federation’s latest data, April sales were up in four out of nine retail categories on a yearly basis, led by online sales, health and personal care stores and general merchandise stores, and also rose in four other categories on a monthly basis.
Where the Sales Are
Specifics from key sectors that were reported by the federation include:
- Online and other non-store sales were up 1.2% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 6.4% unadjusted year over year (Y/Y).
- Health and personal care stores were up 0.9% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 5.8% unadjusted Y/Y.
- General merchandise stores were up 0.9% month over month seasonally adjusted and up 4.1% unadjusted Y/Y.
- Grocery and beverage stores were down 0.2% month over month seasonally adjusted but up 2.9% unadjusted Y/Y.
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 0.3% month over month seasonally adjusted and down 4.1% unadjusted Y/Y.
- Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.5% month over month seasonally adjusted but down 5.7% unadjusted Y/Y.
- Electronics and appliance stores were down 0.5% month over month seasonally adjusted and down 8.2% unadjusted Y/Y.
- Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 0.7% month over month seasonally adjusted and down 8.8% unadjusted Y/Y.
- Sporting goods stores were down 3.3% month over month seasonally adjusted and down 9.1% unadjusted Y/Y.
NRF also said imports in March were up 5% from February – which saw the lowest levels since May 2020 – but down 30.6% year over year. Ports haven’t reported April numbers, but are projected the month at 1.73 million TEU, down 23.4% year over year. May is forecast at 1.83 million TEU, down 23.5% from last year’s 2.4 million TEU.