NRF: Retail Sales Drop During April

Retail sales dropped almost twice as much during April as they did in March as the nation’s economy saw its first full month when most businesses were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the National Retail Federation said.

“As predicted, retail sales were bad in April and lower than in March,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. “This should come as no surprise since April was the first full month when most businesses not considered essential were closed, both in retail and across the economy. But month-to-month comparisons provide little insight other than indicating that most of the economy was on lockdown. Now that we’re in mid-May, many businesses are already starting to reopen. Relief payments and pent-up demand should provide some degree of post-shutdown rebound, but spending will be far from normal and may be choppy going forward.”

The U.S. Census Bureau said that overall retail sales during April were down 16.4% seasonally adjusted from March and down 21.6% unadjusted year-over-year. That follows a record-setting 8.3% month-over-month drop in March.

NRF’s calculation of retail sales, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants in order to focus on core retail, showed April was down 14.1% seasonally adjusted from March and down 8.7% unadjusted year-over-year.

Every category of retail except online was down on a monthly basis in April, including grocery stores and others that had seen a surge in March as consumers stocked up. Online, grocery stores and building materials were the only categories that saw a year-over-year gain.

Specifics from key retail sectors during April include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 21.2% unadjusted year-over-year and up 8.4% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 13.3% unadjusted year-over-year but down 13.1% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Health and personal care stores were down 10.8% unadjusted year-over-year and down 15.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • General merchandise stores were down 13.8% unadjusted year-over-year and down 20.8% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 64.8% unadjusted year-over-year and down 60.6% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 66.3% unadjusted year-over-year and down 58.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted.