Skittish Shoppers Lead To Retail Sales Decline

It seems like every month, retailers get their hopes up that the end of low sales is just the turn of a calendar page away, and every month, they come away disappointed.

The numbers from March aren’t much different, as the U.S. Census Bureau released retail sales number for March on Wednesday (April 13). Retail stores and restaurants took a hit of about 0.3 percent, as its seasonally adjusted total slipped to $446.89 billion for the month. Compared to March 2015, which boasted a 1.6 percent growth in sales, last month’s number doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

This report comes as figures for February received adjustments, going from a 0.1 percent decrease to a period of neither growth nor decline.

However, analysts told The Wall Street Journal that the dip in sales may be due to a drawback in spending on automobiles; without that vertical factored in, sales actually increased 0.2 percent off of February. This led Steve Murphy, U.S. economist at Capital Economics, to express something rarely heard in stories covering retail sales numbers: hope.

“With employment gains still healthy and real incomes growing at a solid pace, we expect real consumption growth to rebound further over the first half of the year,” Murphy told WSJ.

Dana Saporta, director of U.S. economics research at Credit Suisse, echoed those sentiments that while shoppers may have pulled back on spending, it is most likely a temporary development and one susceptible to change.

“Consumer spending has been the main engine of growth in the U.S. for the past few years,” Saporta said. “This was probably still the case in [Q1], but that engine appears to have run slower than it did [in Q4].”


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