Consumers back in a spending mood
U.S. retail sales surged in March, suggesting consumer spending was heading into the second quarter with some momentum.
March retail sales increased 0.3% seasonally adjusted over February and 5% year-over-year as the economy continued to grow, the National Retail Federation said. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.
“This is a healthy spending report despite market volatility, unseasonable weather and uncertain economic policies,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Consumers continue to show resiliency in spending, and these numbers reflect how the economy is performing with a strong job market, gains in wages, improvements in confidence, rising home value and judicious use of credit. The biggest risk to spending is in market fluctuations that could affect confidence, but we expect these basic improvements in economic fundamentals to continue.”
The three-month moving average was up 4.8% over the same period a year ago, and the results come as NRF is forecasting that 2018 retail sales will grow between 3.8% and 4.4% over 2017.
The March results build on improvement seen in February, which was up 0.2% over January and 4.3% year over year.
NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said overall March sales – including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – were up 0.6% seasonally adjusted from February and up 4.5% year-over-year.
Specifics from key retail sectors during March include:
- Online and other non-store sales were up 7.6% year-over-year and up 0.8% over February seasonally adjusted.
- General merchandise stores were up 6.3% year-over-year and up 0.3% from February seasonally adjusted.
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 6.1% year-over-year but down 0.8% from February seasonally adjusted.
- Grocery and beverage stores were up 5.9% year-over-year and up 0.2% from February.
- Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 4.1% year-over-year and up 0.7% from February seasonally adjusted.
- Building materials and garden supply stores were up 3.8% year-over-year but down 0.6% from February seasonally adjusted.
- Electronics and appliance stores were up 1.6% year-over-year and up 0.5% from February seasonally adjusted.
- Health and personal care stores were up 0.4% year-over-year and up 1.4% from February seasonally adjusted.
- Sporting goods stores were down 0.9% year-over-year and down 1.8% from February seasonally adjusted.