Retailers report strong March sales as winter ebbs

March was a good month for retailers spurred on by warmer weather and pent-up demand from consumers wanting to shake off the winter blues. The National Retail Federation reported a 1.6% increase in March sales compared to a year ago. These sales exclude autos, fuel and restaurants.

“Consumers shed their winter coats last month for fresh, spring merchandise,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retail sales increased in most categories and sectors as consumers took to stores to purchase new spring attire and home furnishings in hopeful expectation of warmer weather. Sales should continue to remain positive this spring with the approach of Easter and expected tax refunds.”

The U.S. Census Bureau data, which includes automobiles, gas stations and restaurants rose 1.1% from the prior month to $433.9 billion. This was the biggest increase since 2012. Sales rose a whopping 3.8% from a year ago, according to the commerce department.

“Improving economic conditions and consumer confidence should push consumers to return to spending habits this spring,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

He said March was a rebounding month after tepid sales in January and February. Wal-Mart said recently that its sales also bounced back in March after a roughly January and February. That said, the retail giant expects negative to flat same store comparable sales for this quarter which ends April 30.


Segment Sales Increases (year-over-year)
• Building material and garden equipment sales increased 6.2%
• Clothing and accessories sales decreased 2.3%
• Electronics and appliance sales decreased 2%
• Furniture and home furnishing sales increased 1%
• General merchandise sales decreased 0.2%
• Health and personal care sales increased 4%
• Online retailers’ sales increased 8%
• Sporting goods, hobby, book and music sales decreased 5.5%

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What about restaurants and gasoline?

It would be interesting to see where restaurant sales are compared with a year ago. Also, Benton County is now wet and surely we have 1 quarter of results from county alcohol sales taxes, to compare with Washington County alcohol sales taxes from 1 year ago. Also, gasoline prices are a gauge of consumer spending; we all have to have gasoline, so, as fuel prices increase, so does the cost of other goods; then, consumers have to cut elsewhere to fill 'er up. Also, restaurant sales are a harbinger of disposable income - if restaurant sales decrease, so do service industry jobs. Delve deeper - I'm curious!

Just Wondering

The City Wire does report sales tax each month and hospitality tax each quarter for the four largest towns in Northwest Arkansas. Rogers and Springdale do not collect prepared food taxes. Sales tax revenue in Benton County has gone up since it went wet.

How About Fort Smith

Do we have any numbers on the local economy in Fort Smith and NW Arkansas like sales tax receipts? Just curious because some of the Fort Smith merchants have been crying the blues and the City Administrator had been saying that sales tax revenue was well below last year.

lots of local numbers

Yes. We report each month on sales tax collections, hospitality tax collections, home sales, enplanements, etc. -- a whole host of numbers. And once a quarter we produce The Compass Report, which is the only independent analysis of economic conditions in Arkansas' three largest metro areas. The next Compass Report should hit on April 17.

Thanks City Wire

for being the best and most interesting news source available in the community.