After looking sluggish in the first few months of the year, U.S. retail sales bounced back a bit in March, according to figures just released by the Commerce Department, The Wall Street Journal reported. A bit of a commerce chill settled on consumer-spending patterns in the later days of 2017 and early 2018, but it seems customers have found their appetites again for cars, appliances and furniture. Auto sales were looking particularly heathy, with a 2 percent bounce in March.
After retail pulled back so sharply following the heavy-spending holiday period, what stimulated the speed up last month?
Economists indicate that the combined forces of job gains, consumer confidence and tax cuts all had a part to play in putting funds into consumers pockets — and the will to spend those funds. Economists are also predicting there is no current reason to expect this trend to change.
Sales looked particularly strong at grocery stores, restaurants, bars and drug stores. Showing less strength in March were clothing stores, gardening shops and sporting-goods dealers. Those fall-offs, according to market watchers, came largely as a result of an unusually long and snowy winter season, which left large segments of the nation running a bit behind garden-wise.
Economists have initially forecast a 0.4 percent increase in sales, but an Easter holiday that fell on the last weekend of the month helped to push sales figures higher.
“The somewhat improved performance in March was too late to help the first quarter, but it does set the stage for a marked pickup in real consumer spending in the second quarter,” wrote Stephen Stanley, chief economist of Amherst Pierpont Securities.