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March Sales Slip For Electronics/Appliance Stores

Sales for electronics and appliance dealers decreased 2.1 percent year over year in March, to about $8.5 billion, and were flat from February, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

By comparison, furniture and home-furnishings stores saw a 3.4 percent sales bump last month, while e-tailers and other direct-sellers enjoyed a 6.5 percent increase year over year, according to the agency’s monthly retail sales estimates.

Total retail sales, excluding automotive and restaurants, rose a more meager 1.3 percent.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), an industry trade group, said the gains came amid advancing income and employment. However, it still described the economy as “sluggish,” and cited the University of Michigan’s mid-March consumer sentiment reading, which dropped 1.7 points from February and was 3 points below the year-ago mark.

Despite today’s downbeat Census Bureau figures, retail stocks outperformed the broader market this morning, with Sears, GameStop, Conn’s, and Barnes & Noble all showing sharp gains, Seeking Alpha reported.

The sales estimates were adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading day differences, but not for price changes. The Census Bureau’s complete report is available here.