NEW YORK — Market News International’s weekly retail trade index dropped to 56.8 on March 26 from a reading of 57.7 a week prior.
The index, which surveys apparel, home, electronics, general merchandise, specialized and automotive retailers and restaurants, measures business sentiment on conditions, operating income and year-to-year change and ranks the companies according to their public earnings. As a diffusion index, it gives equal weight to both large and small retailers.
The dip in the MNI index can be attributed to fewer dollars spent leading up to Easter Sunday, which came earlier this year than usual. Apparel, however, didn’t suffer for it.
“Early Easter or not, apparel continues to be one of the strongest groups in the sector,” said Mark Pender, author of MNI’s report. “The 44 apparel chains in the latest sample, representing roughly 29,000 individual stores, are posting an index of 61.4 and same-store sales growth of 6 percent.”
Fast-food restaurants did equally well, with Sonic Corp. posting strong sales gains in March and predicting 4 to 6 percent same-store sales growth through spring.
Home decor and electronics sales, however, declined in the weeks leading up to Easter. Bombay Co. said it was concerned about softness in demand, while Kirkland’s warned the industry that future sales declines are ahead for April.
Despite the slight overall decline in the index, its 56.8 is still higher than the average. At its lowest point, in the period ending Jan. 28, the index dropped to 45.5. Though year-on-year revenues for retailers were up 7.8 percent, severe weather and extreme cold dampened sales that week.
In coming weeks, retailers should expect to see a spike in sales as consumers spend their tax refunds to refresh their spring wardrobes and prepare their homes for a new season. Families might also be doing more shopping while children are on spring break from school. Mother’s Day on May 7 is expected to drive up the performance of general.