Retail Sales Numbers Down A Bit But Don’t Panic

Retail sales in March fell 1.8% after rising 0.3% in February. Before you start looking for the sky to fall consider this from the WSJ:

Sales at stores open at least a year, a key indicator of the retail industry’s health, fell 1.8%, according to an index of 31 retailers compiled by Thomson Reuters, after rising 0.3% in February. The decline reflects the impact of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, and Easter’s shift, to April 12 this year from March 23 last year. Analysts said the calendar change reduced stores’ overall retail sales to the tune of 1 to 3 percentage points.

Despite some disappointment in the March figures, retail experts pointed to signs of optimism, including a rebound in housewares at Wal-Mart, Target Corp. and Kohl’s Corp. The more upbeat profit forecasts indicates “the supply-demand balance is better aligned,” says Barclays Capital retail analyst Bob Drbul.

March was a goofy month from a comparative point. The Easter shopping season is huge and it loaded a lot of sales into March last year that didn’t happen until April this year. So, we are going to have to wait until early May to get a better handle on things. But all in all it doesn’t appear as if things are getting worse.

Well there is one exception to that statement. Luxury retailers are still hurting. Neiman Marcus Group Inc. and Saks Inc. posted sharp declines of 29.9% and 23.6%, respectively. Teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. posted a 34% sales decline.

We’re all discount shoppers now.

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