Retail sales showed some life at department and discount stores last week but trended down from the prior seven days.
The Retail Economist LLC and Goldman Sachs reported that chain store sales in the week ended May 2 were down 0.9 percent from the prior week while advancing 3.7 percent on a year-on-year basis versus a poor comparable week in 2014.
Department stores, discounters and dollars stores were among the strongest performers during the week.
The 3.7 percent year-on-year increase was the second best of the month, behind only the 3.8 percent registered during the week ended April 11, while the 0.9 percent sequential decline was the steepest since a 2.1 percent dip during the week ended Feb. 7.
“Chain store sales advanced more briskly in the final week of the fiscal month due to the softness in the prior year’s base period,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist and principal of The Retail Economist. “All retail segments picked up in the final week of the month with discounters, dollar stores and department stores in the lead.”
Warmer weather in the Northeast helped the sales picture in the region, while stormy weather in the South and on the Gulf Coast produced severe weather, including tornadoes, and worked against retailers’ aspirations for the week.
Meanwhile, gas prices continued to increase, reaching their highest average level of the year at $2.664 a gallon. They remain 27.7 percent below year-ago levels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Retailers that continue to report monthly sales results will do so on Thursday, and expectations for the month are modest. Thomson Reuters’ most recent estimate for the month, issued Monday and based on those of analysts, is for a decline of 0.4 percent, with apparel stores down 4.4 percent. However, much of the apparel decrease is attributable to an expectation of a 7.4 percent decline in Gap Inc.’s comparable sales, including a 10.4 percent dip at the Gap brand. Without the projected drop from Gap Inc., the apparel decline is projected to be 0.8 percent.
April sales were hurt by the early timing of Easter this year in comparison to 2014, which retailers believe pushed some transactions into March and out of April.
The Retail Economist and Goldman Sachs will recalibrate their index next week, setting 100 as the base value for 2010. The new values will be incorporated into weekly reports beginning on May 12.