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March Retail Sales Flat: NRF

Cold weather, later holidays take the blame

Retail sales were flat in March, according to the National Retail Federation, creeping up just 1 percent after being seasonally adjusted from February. (Unadjusted, they crept up 0.8 percent year over year.)

Cold weather in the early part of the month contributed to the lackluster performance, said the group, as did a later Easter and Passover. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

When broken out, sales in electronics and appliance stores were down 4.1 percent year over year, and flat (up a half-percent) month over month when seasonally adjusted.

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In a statement, NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz painted a glass half-full: “March’s numbers are very encouraging and set the stage for improved expectations for the economy in the coming months, especially since the first quarter is typically weak. These numbers boost first-quarter performance and suggest a strong consumer.”

He added: “It is clear that underlying consumer fundamentals including job and wage growth and healthy household balance sheets continue to support spending. Consumers were busy in March after weaker-than-expected spending earlier.”

Online and other non-store sales were up 9.2 percent year over year and up 1.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted, said NRF.

The group projects that 2019 retail sales will increase between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent to more than $3.8 trillion. 

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