Retail sales last week scored their biggest sequential advance of the year while lingering wintry weather kept a lid on apparel sales.
The International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs weekly chain store sales index rose 3.6 percent in the week ended Saturday compared with the prior week, the strongest gain since 2014 began. However, the year-on-year advance was 0.6 percent, the lowest gain since a flat finish in the week ended Feb. 1.
Year-on-year comparisons were depressed by the timing of Easter, which last year fell on March 31 and this year occurs on April 20.
Citing data from Weather Trends International, Michael Niemira, vice president of research and chief economist at ICSC, noted that last week’s temperatures were 4 degrees cooler than average. That made it “the fourth-coldest last week of March in more than 23 years” and appeared to have contributed to the highest percentage of surveyed consumers who didn’t shop through any channel — 7.3 percent — in the last four years.
“Looking ahead, we anticipate pent-up consumer demand for spring apparel to drive sales as warmer weather returns,” the ICSC official said.
ICSC data show that sales gains for March through March 29 were 0.9 percent versus March 2013 and 2.5 percent versus February, when severe winter weather kept many consumers out of stores and malls.
ICSC has monitored changes in gasoline prices as part of its weekly tracking of retail sales. Last week, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline rose 3 cents, the eighth consecutive week of higher prices.