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Retail Sales Grew in April as Consumers Took Higher Prices in Stride

Consumers accustomed to inflation continued to spend in April as retail sales overcame higher prices to show both monthly and year-over-year increases, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Matthew Shay
Matthew Shay

“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. Despite already tight margins, retailers remain committed to their customers and are doing everything they can to absorb these costs to keep products affordable. With the Federal Reserve already raising interest rates, the Biden administration and Congress have an opportunity to provide targeted relief to American households by lifting the China tariffs, passing legislation to fix the supply chain, and addressing immigration reform to ease the tight labor market.”

Jack Kleinhenz
Jack Kleinhenz

“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 said. “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.”

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The US Census Bureau said that overall retail sales in April were up 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted from March and up 8.2 percent year-over-year. That compared with increases of 1.4 percent month-over-month and 7.3 percent year-over-year in March.

NRF’s calculation of retail sales—which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations, and restaurants to focus on core retail—showed April was up 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted from March and up 6.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year. In March, sales were up 1 percent month-over-month and up 3.9 percent year-over-year.

NRF’s numbers were up 7.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average as of April.

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. Specifics from key sectors include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 2.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 11.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 0.8 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 11.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were down 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 8.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores were up 0.2 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 3.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 0.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 1.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 0.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 0.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were down 0.1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and down 1.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 0.5 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted and down 3.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were up 1 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted but down 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

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