U.S. retail sales rise 8.2% year-over-year in April

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 824 views 

The U.S Census Bureau reported overall retail sales in April were up 0.9% seasonally adjusted from March and up 8.2% year over year. Sales were up 1.4% month over month and 7.3% year over year in March.

April retail sales totaled $677.7 billion fueled in part by inflationary prices on everything from food and consumables to fuel. April’s gains were powered by a 4% gain from miscellaneous retail and a 2.1% jump in online sales. Excluding autos, sales increased 0.6%, which was better than the 0.4% estimate.

Tuan Nguyen, U.S. economist at global accounting firm RSM, said American consumers kept spending in April but he doesn’t expect that will be the case next month as gasoline prices reached a record high in May. Last week the U.S. government reported the consumer price index rose 8.3% in April which was close to a 40-year high. The reading was higher than expected and indicates inflation continues to run strong throughout the economy.

Walmart also reported Tuesday that consumers are trading down to lower-priced private brands in some categories like lunch meat and dairy. But also cited some strength in larger ticket items like patio and game consoles.

The National Retail Federation strips out sales from automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail. This metric showed April was up 0.9% seasonally adjusted from March and up 6.4% year over year. In March, sales were up 1% month over month and up 3.9% year over year.

“April retail sales demonstrate consumer strength and willingness to spend despite persistent inflation, supply chain constraints, market volatility and global unrest,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “While consumers are facing higher prices, they are preserving their budgets by shopping smart. Retail businesses are also facing increased costs like higher energy bills and rents as well as the cost for goods, transportation and wages.”

Shay said retailers report tighter margins but remain committed to trying to hold prices down.

“April’s retail sales data is encouraging because it shows consumers are taking higher prices in stride and remain resilient,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “Sales benefited from Easter/Passover spending and also from tax refunds, which have been delayed by pandemic-related issues at the IRS but are also larger than usual. High gasoline prices, rising interest rates and price pressures across the board continue to be headwinds to spending, but wage and job gains are offsetting that with a tailwind that should bode well for moderate-but-steady spending growth going forward.”

NRF said April sales were up in two-thirds of categories on both a monthly and yearly basis, with year-over-year gains led by online sales and clothing and grocery stores. Building supply, garden and sporting goods as well as electronics stores each reported lower sales from the previous month as well as the last year period.

Following are NRF sales analysis in key categories.
• E-commerce sales increased 2.1% from the prior month and 11.3% year-over-year.
• Clothing and accessory sales rose 0.8% month over month, up 11.2% year over year.
• Grocery sales were down 0.2% month over month, up 8.9% year over year.
• General merchandise sales were up 0.2% month over month, up 3.7% year over year.
• Health and beauty sales rose  0.7% month over month, up 1.2% year over year.
• Furniture and furnishing sales were up 0.7% month over month, up 0.9% year over year.