WASHINGTON — Sales within the CE and appliance specialty retail channel edged down 1.5 percent year over year in April, to $8.7 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.
But according to the agency’s monthly sales estimates, volume slowed significantly from a very strong March, with CE/majap sell-through dipping 2.3 percent month over month. March results were revised upward to show 5.8 percent growth year over year.
Indeed, most retail channels experienced a deceleration from March. Sales at furniture and home-furnishings stores rose 3.5 percent year over year but slipped 0.6 percent sequentially. Similarly, sales soared 6.5 percent for e-tailers and other direct sellers over the prior-year period, but declined nearly 1 percent from March, possibly reflecting the impact of widening sales tax collection, suggested Janney Montgomery Scott analyst David Strasser.
Total retail sales grew 4.2 percent year over year and were flat from March.
All sales figures were adjusted for seasonal variation and for holiday and trading day differences, but not for price changes.
Analysts drew different conclusions from the April slowdown. Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation (NRF), said even though an expected bounce from the Easter calendar shift fizzled, “the fundamentals of the economy, including improving job growth and income gains, remain positive.”
But retail analyst Strasser suggested in a research note that the downturn may be attributable to weak housing and modest real wage growth, which could continue to keep a lid on the consumer recovery.
He added that the CE channel remains “very tough, as there is no real product cycle to drive sales,” and that while CE dealer volume is still up 1.4 percent for the quarter, “the trend is not their friend.”