Materials handling business: April retail sales continue upward trend
May 20, 2010 - MMH Editorial
Keeping in line with retail sales growth from February to March, the United States Department of Commerce and the National Retail Federation recently reported retail sales were up again from March to April.
March retail sales, which include non-general merchandise like automobiles, gasoline, and restaurants, at $366.4 billion were up 0.4 percent from March, which was up 1.6 percent from February, and were up 8.8 year-over-year, according to the Department of Commerce. And total retail sales were up 9.6 percent year-over-year.
The NRF reported that April retail sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) increased 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted over March and 4.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
“Spring shopping and seasonal weather helped boost sales last month,” said Rosalind Wells, Chief Economist for NRF. “Spending on discretionary items had fallen by the wayside these last few years and we are encouraged to see consumers dipping into that pot once again.”
As LM has previously reported, continued increases in retail are not entirely surprising, considering that various economic indicators and media reports in recent weeks have pointed to some improvements in the job market, and ongoing strength in the manufacturing sector.
And at the same time, consumers have started to emerge from the bunker and begun spending more. This has also been apparent in freight transportation volumes, which are seeing consistent sequential and annual gains, due to increased consumer spending, coupled with retailers slowly building up inventories after deliberately keeping them low for months to better match up with previously sluggish demand following the depths of the recession.
Industry sources have told LM that since November the overall market feels better due to what I will call the retailers putting themselves in a position to have ample spring inventory in place.
What’s more retail sales are turning in steady performances at a time when unemployment remains high, coupled with the national personal savings rate at about 5.5 percent-compared to zero in the past-which has lowered the new normal consumption rate, and will build up slowly from this point.
While many analysts and economists are calling for continued gains in retail sales, it has led to an outlook of cautious growth which has been sustained, according to Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates.
“These are still relatively good numbers and growth rates,” said Hackett in a recent interview. “We are…seeing consumers wearily come back, and the [inventory] restocking continues to occur. A lot of wholesalers and importers are still working relatively low stocks, with stock-to-sale on a two-month schedule, so there is going to be a continuing re-supply of stocks. People initially thought it was going to be a big one-off in restocking, but we thought it would be slow and steady.”