News Column

U.S. Retail Sales Barely Budge After Big March

May 13, 2014

Staff Reports --

Hispanic shoppers (file photo)
Hispanic shoppers (file photo)

U.S. retail sales rose less than expected in April, plodding into the second quarter after the fastest sprint in four years.

Retail sales rose a statistically insignificant 0.1 percent in April, the Census Bureau reported, following a revised 1.5 percent in March, which was the biggest month for the metric since March 2010.

Once gasoline was factored out, sales were down 0.1 percent for April.

Sales at auto dealerships rose 0.6 percent, following a 3.6 percent increase in the previous month.

Sales at nonstore retailers, including online outlets, fell 0.9 percent.

Employment, manufacturing and service industry surveys had suggested the economy would get back some of its strength early in the second quarter after being weighed down by frigid weather and slow restocking in the first quarter.

However, today's retail sales numbers threw cold water on that optimistic outlook.

Results from ICSC-Goldman Sachs and Redbook were also released on Tuesday along with the Labor Department numbers.

The ICSC-Goldman Sachs report was as gloomy as the Labor Department's, showing a 0.1 percent week-over-week drop in retail sales.

Redbook got some sunshine, though, seeing a 1.1 percent month-over-month increase for the first week of May. Same-store sales were up 4.2 percent compared to the same week a year ago.

Other retailers are expected to report their sales figures later in the week, including Macy's on Wednesday and J.C. Penney, Kohl's, Nordstrom and Walmart on Thursday.

Import prices

The import price index was down in April.

Labor Department data on Tuesday showed that the cost of goods imported into the U.S. dropped unexpectedly by 0.4 percent, the first decrease since November, after rising 0.4 percent the month before.

The index sank 0.3 percent during the past 12 months. and contributed.

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