Retail Sales Relatively Flat in April

Census BureauWASHINGTON-U.S. retail sales totaled $434.6 billion in April, up a bare 0.1 percent from March and 4 percent from April of last year, according to this morning’s monthly retail sales report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The sales figures for the channels that sell home furnishings presented a mixed bag last month. Furniture and home furnishings stores posted a 0.6 percent decline in sales from March, but picked up 3.5 percent from April of last year. General merchandise stores increased their April sales by 0.2 percent from March and 2.8 percent year over year.

Department stores (excluding leased departments) pushed sales up 1.8 percent month over month, but saw sales decline 0.3 percent from April 2013. Nonstore sales (which include online and catalogs) punched in with a 0.9 percent falloff from March and a 6.5 percent gain year over year.

Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, noted that April sales were weaker than expected in spite of the fact that “the fundamentals of the economy, including improving job growth and income gains, remain positive. While the shift in Easter played into the seasonal figures, NRF remains optimistic that retail sales will keep their positive trajectory, albeit in fits and starts, in the second quarter.”