Retail Sales Inch Up in April after Upward Revision from March

Retail sales inched up modestly but below estimates in April, boosted in part by a strong showing in non-store retailers, while retail sales figures were revised upward for March, according to an analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Commerce by Wells Fargo.

For non-store retailers, sales grew by 1.4% in April, while sales at electronics and appliance stores increased by 1.3%. “Electronics and appliance store sales has been one of the weakest sectors of retail in the past year but has been very strong lately, increasing another 2.2% in February,” Wells analysts said. Motor vehicle sales also reversed weak postings in the first quarter by increasing 0.7% in April.

Housing retail sales were mixed in April, with building materials and garden equipment and supplies dealer sales increasing 1.2% on the back of a 1.7% drop in March. On the other hand, furniture and home furniture store sales dropped 0.5% in April following a 1.5% increase the prior month.

Clothing and clothing accessories store sales dropped 0.5% in April following a bump in March. Also, general merchandise store sales carried on a decline from the prior month. Department store sales were down, year-over-year, by 3.7% in April, though they eked out a 0.2% rise on the month.

Meanwhile, retailers appeared to be stocking up on inventory in March—by 0.2% overall—in anticipation of some growth during the second quarter, Wells said in a separate report. “One of the few advantages brick-and-mortar retailers have over online competitors is having product when the consumer needs it ‘now!’” wrote Tim Quinlan, senior economist, and Sarah House, economist, both with Wells Fargo. “That may be a factor in why retailers are stocking up more than wholesalers and manufacturers.”

– Nicholas Stern, senior editor

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