Growing consumer demand at department stores and wholesale clubs helped spur a 3 percent increase in weekly sales, while the sequential trend failed to move into positive territory.
According to the weekly chain store sales index of The Retail Economist LLC and Goldman Sachs, sales in the week ended March 21 were 3 percent higher than in the comparable week of 2014 but, at an index value of 559.8, 0.7 percent below their reading for the prior week.
The index was set at 100 in 1977.
“Once again, the warming temperatures in parts of the country helped to spur demand, especially at department stores and wholesale clubs,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist and principal of The Retail Economist. “Maintaining those warmer temperatures will be important to help lift Easter apparel demand in the coming weeks.”
The earlier timing of Easter – April 5 this year versus April 20 in 2014 – was expected to push holiday-related sales into March, although continuing frigid weather along the Eastern Seaboard has kept that from happening in many areas.
Yet, the overall trend in the U.S. is not only warmer than a few weeks ago but warmer than in past years. Last week, temperatures on average were 6.7 degrees warmer than in the comparable week of last year and 5.3 degrees warmer than their longer-term trend.
Gasoline prices, down in the prior week, rose slightly last week, increasing 0.4 cents a gallon to a national average of $2.457. That’s still 30.8 percent lower than they were in the 2014 week.