March Retail Sales Trend Down But Some Channels Gained

Retail sales in March took a hit from the COVID-19 outbreak but, among the various channels that make up the sector, results were mixed.

The United States Census Bureau March adjusted advanced estimate of U.S. retail trade sales, excluding gas stations and automobile and parts results, was $368.44 billion, down as compared with $380.05 billion in February yet still up as compared with $367.87 billion in the month a year prior.

Adjusted results among key categories, as characterized in the Census Bureau monthly report, were:

  • Sales at Furniture & Home Furnishings stores were $7.34 billion, down from $10.03 billion in February and down from $9.74 billion in the year-earlier month.
  • Sales at Electronics & Appliance Stores were $6.87 billion, down from $8.1 billion in February and down from $8.17 billion in the year-earlier month.
  • Sales at Building Material & Garden Equipment & Supplies Dealers were $33.83 billion, up from $33.38 billion in February and up from $31.43 billion in the year-earlier month.
  • Sales at Food & Beverage Stores were $82.1 billion, up from $65.38 billion in February and $64.14 billion in the year-earlier month.
  • Sales at Health & Personal Care Stores were $30.81 billion, up from $29.55 billion in February and up from $29.55 billion in the year-earlier month.
  • Sales at General Merchandise Stores were $63.78 billion, up from $59.95 billion in February and up from $59.34 billion in the year-earlier month.

Among General Merchandise Stores, department store adjusted sales skidded to $8.78 billion from $10.94 billion in February and $11.54 billion in March 2019.