WASHINGTON — Consumers appeared to shake off the harsh winter in March and stepped up their purchases of everything from autos to apparel, boosting overall retail sales to their highest gain in more than a year and a half, the Commerce Department’s monthly retail sales report showed Monday.
In the overall economy, retail sales rose 1.1 percent to $433.9 billion, surpassing economists’ expectations. It was the largest overall retail sales increase since September 2012 and was primarily driven by a 3.1 percent spike in auto-related sales, although the gains were seen across many sectors.
“It is clear that consumer spending and confidence weathered the unseasonably colder winter and shoppers are ready to open their wallets for big-ticket items,” said Chris G. Christopher, director of consumer economics at IHS Global Insight. “Our real consumer spending growth for the first quarter is now standing at 2.1 percent [it was 1.9 percent prior to the new report] due to the strong showing of retail sales in March and the upward revisions to January and February.”
General merchandise stores sales, a category that includes department stores and discounters, increased a seasonally adjusted 1.9 percent to $55.8 billion last month compared with February. Department stores posted a 0.5 percent increase in sales to $14.2 billion, while apparel and accessories stores notched a 1 percent gain to $21 billion last month.
“Consumer spending rebounded at a healthy rate, potentially even a strong rate,” said Scott Hoyt, director of consumer economics at Moody’s Analytics. “It appears it is a rebound from the winter doldrums and that retailers at least partially recouped some of the weakness that we have likely seen as a result of the weather.”
Hoyt said the 1.9 percent increase in general merchandise store sales was the highest since March 2007 and attributed it to “payback” from the severe winter, which impacted consumers’ ability to shop at stores. Year-to-year, sales at general merchandise stores were 1.9 percent higher, while specialty store sales were up 2.1 percent. Sales at department stores were down 3.4 percent for the 12 months.
“Improving economic conditions and consumer confidence should push consumers to return to spending habits this spring,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation. “Consumers released some pent-up demand in March after two consecutive months of harsh winter weather that not only hampered employment opportunities, but also retail sales. We remain optimistic that retail sales will continue their positive march this spring.”
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)