Retail sales in the U.S. saw a slight boost in April, signaling a possible upswing from a sluggish first quarter.
Seasonally adjusted sales for apparel and accessories retailers in April grew by 0.4 percent to $21.39 billion, following flat sales in March. Compared with a year earlier, April sales in the sector rose 4.6 percent, according to new Census Bureau data. Additional, April also saw seasonally adjusted prices for apparel drop by 0.3 percent, the second-consecutive instance of month-to-month price declines, but against a year earlier, prices rose 0.5 percent.
Since January retail sales have fallen 1.1 percent, compared with the first four months of 2016.
But e-commerce sales continued a string of growth, coming at $51.35 billion for April, a 1.9 percent increase over March and a 2.2 percent increase from last year. Since January, e-commerce sales have grown by 10.7 percent.
Overall retail sales grew slightly as well, hitting $474.95 billion during April, a 0.2 percent increase over March and also a roughly 0.2 percent increase over April 2016. For the first four months of the year, retail sales are at $1.79 trillion, a 3.5 percent year-over-year increase.
Commenting on the results, Craig Johnson, president of retail research firm Customer Growth Partners, noted that better sales in April still weren’t enough to offset the year’s slow first quarter.
“In fact, the only really strong part of April was the last 12 days of the month, per our store checks,” Johnson said. “Easter was sluggish. The good news is that the much better momentum in late April has continued May to date.”
Some retailers that have begun reporting first-quarter results are also leaning on the notion of improved traffic and sales since late April, despite generally lower sales in the first quarter.
J.C. Penny, for one, said comparable store sales for April have improved over February and March, when revealing a first quarter that saw sales fall 3.7 percent to $2.7 billion and net losses more than double from a year ago to $180 million.
Similarly, Kohl’s saw total sales drop by 3.2 percent to $3.8 billion for the first quarter, but pointed to improved sales and traffic patterns over March and April as cause for encouragement.
Department stores such as Macy’s and Nordstrom are also looking to improvements during the next quarter after sales for both, especially Macy’s which has closed a number of locations, lagged early in the year.
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