Retail Sales Lag in March

       

       

WASHINGTON-U.S. retail sales in March totaled $418.3 billion on an adjusted basis, down 0.4 percent from February and up 2.8 percent from March 2012, according to this morning’s report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Looking at individual retail channels, furniture and home furnishings stores posted increases over both February and March of last year—0.9 percent and 2.8 percent respectively. General merchandise stores registered declines of 1.2 percent from February and 4.9 percent from last year’s March. Department stores (excluding leased departments) posted sales drops of 1.1 percent month to month and 7.6 percent from last year.

In its statement on the numbers, the National Retail Federation noted that March brought the first monthly decline in sales since last October. NRF attributed last month’s weak sales performance to colder-than-normal weather across the country and the impact of the payroll tax increase earlier this year. Jack Kleinhenz, NRF’s chief economist, also cited “an anemic employment picture and delays in tax refunds….While we remain optimistic that retail sales will grow modestly this year, it seems like the economy is off to a shaky start as we enter the second quarter.”