Retail and food sales for April were down 0.2% overall while ekeing out a minimal 0.1% gain excluding motor vehicles and parts. The decline in motor vehicles and parts (down 1.1%) was expected to restrain overall sales. Also expected was the rise in the dollar value of sales at gasoline stations (up 1.8%) due to increasing prices at the pump.
However, sales in other sectors were anticipated to be firmer than they were. In particular, the drop in building materials (down 1.9%) came at a time when consumers normally start to spend on sprucing up home exteriors and grounds. There was apparently little demand for other seasonal merchandise like clothing (down 0.2%) or sporting goods (up 0.2%). Department stores did better (up 0.7%) possibly related to demand for items related to the Passover/Easter period. Some of the slow sales tempo could be due to smaller and few tax refunds arriving in April at a time when these usually boost spending.
So called “core” retail sales — sales excluding motor vehicles, building materials, and gasoline — were flat in April from March.
It is probably more useful to consider the March/April retail sales data as a package. The late timing of Passover/Easter compared to 2018 means that some spending got shifted around.
The report gets the second quarter off to a lackluster start. Retail and food sales were up 3.1% compared to the year-ago month, sales excluding motor vehicles were up 3.3%, and the core was up 3.4%. These are respectable gains that should not be overlooked in the noise of month-to-month variation.
Disclaimer: Whetstone Analysis provides commentary as a service to its subscribers. Whetstone Analysis is not responsible for, and expressly disclaims all liability for, damages of any kind arising out of use, reference to, or reliance on any information contained within the site. While the information contained within the site is periodically updated and every effort is made to ensure its accuracy, no guarantee is given that the information provided in this Web site is correct, complete, and up-to-date. Click here to read our full Disclaimer.