Retail sales in March were up and the growth has buoyed optimism that consumers will continue spending in the months ahead.
Figures from the National Retail Federation show that year-over-year sales in the year’s third month were up 0.8%. The figure excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. The three-month moving average was up 2.6% over the same period a year ago.
“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,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF’s chief economist. “These numbers boost first quarter performance and suggest a strong consumer.”
The March figures, Kleinhenz said, could have shown further growth if not for a cold weather snap across much of the country in early March and the timing shift of Passover and Easter to April.
NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said today that overall March sales— including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants— were up 3.6% unadjusted year-over-year. The release of retail sales data for December through March has been delayed as the bureau works through a backlog caused by the government shutdown earlier this year.
During March, online and other non-store sales were up 9.2% year-over-year. Health and personal care stores were up 1.6% year-over-year while general merchandise stores were down 0.5%. Also, furniture and home furnishings stores were down 1% year-over-year and electronics and appliance stores were down 4.1% year-over-year.