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Auto rebound gives U.S. retail a bounce in March

16 April 2018

Non-store retailers - primarily e-commerce and catalog businesses - and gas stations tied for the best gain, each with sales up 9.7% from March past year. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies stores were off 0.6 percent for the month, though they were up 5.3 percent for the year.

Consumers snapped up electronics, shopped online and frequented bars and restaurants, but sales sagged at department stores, gas stations and clothing outlets, according to the Commerce Department report.

The increase followed a 0.1 percent drop in February, which was the third of three consecutive months of decline.

"This is a healthy spending report despite market volatility, unseasonable weather and uncertain economic policies", NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement.

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Online retail sales increased 0.8 percent in March and have risen almost 10 percent compared to a year ago.

The Commerce Department said on Monday retail sales increased 0.6 percent last month after an unrevised 0.1 percent dip in February.

Non-store retailers like Amazon continued to gain, rising 0.8 per cent for the month, putting them up almost 10 per cent over March of previous year. "The biggest risk to spending is in market fluctuations that could affect confidence, but we expect these basic improvements in economic fundamentals to continue".

Grocery and beverage stores were up 5.9 percent year-over-year and up 0.2 percent from February.

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Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 6.1% year-over-year but down 0.8% from February seasonally adjusted.

Health and personal care stores were up 0.4% year-over-year and up 1.4% from February seasonally adjusted.

Sales by non-store retailers and furniture and home furnishing stores also saw notable growth, although the increases were partly offset by a steep drop in sales by sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores.

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Auto rebound gives U.S. retail a bounce in March