Tuesday, April 14, 2009
To the surprise of most analysts, the Commerce Department reported retail sales fell 1.1 percent in March following an upwardly revised gain of 0.3 percent in February, the most recent decline paced by tumbling sales of electronics, appliances, and automobiles.
On a year-over-year basis, retail sales were down 9.4 percent, an improvement from the December low of minus 10.5 percent, but worse than February's 7.9 percent annual decline.
Excluding automobiles, retail sales fell 0.9 percent in March after a gain of 1.0 percent in February and, from year ago levels, retail sales ex-autos are now down 6.0 percent.
The higher jobless rate was blamed for the most recent downturn, lower prices and other incentives at clothing stores and auto dealers failing to spur buying interest from the public, however, a relatively late Easter holiday may have also had an impact.
Sales at electronics and appliance stores tumbled 5.9 percent, automobile dealers saw a 2.5 percent reduction in overall sales, and spending at clothing stores fell 1.8 percent.
With the exception of modest increases at food and beverage stores and for health and personal care items, receipts for every other retail category declined. The 1.4 percent drop in spending at food services and drinking places was the sharpest decline in three years.
The effect of the long, slow decline in housing continues to be felt in the home furnishings industry as sales fell 1.7 percent in March and are now 13.1 percent lower than a year ago.
The year-over-year decline in furniture sales is exceeded only by the 34 percent decline in gasoline station sales (mostly due to lower prices) and the 26 percent decline in automobile sales (mostly due to fewer sales).