Weather Warms Retail Sales

Census BureauWASHINGTON-The onset of spring weather helped U.S. retailers to increased sales in March.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly retail sales report, retail sales last month totaled $433.9 billion, up 1.1 percent over February and 3.8 percent ahead of March 2013. In its assessment of the Census Bureau’s numbers, the National Retail Federation attributed the gains to warmer spring weather, which released some pent-up consumer demand. Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, said home furnishings was among the categories that benefited from stronger retail traffic in March.

Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores finished the month with a 1 percent gain over February and a 2.1 percent rise over March of last year. General merchandise stores logged increases of 1.9 percent both month to month and year over year.

Department stores (excluding leased departments) posted a month-over-month pickup of 0.5 percent and a 3.4 percent drop year to year. Nonstore retailers’ sales edged up 1.7 percent over February and climbed 7.8 percent over March 2013.

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said the association is optimistic about retail sales as the season moves along. “Improving economic conditions and consumer confidence should push consumers to return to spending habits this spring,” Kleinhenz said.