U.S. retailers charged back after three months of declining sales, with consumers snapping up big-ticket items such as cars, furniture and appliances. The March shopping spree indicates that we may be seeing the beginning of a rise in consumer demand, spurred for now by tax refunds as well as the recent tax cuts.
What and where were consumers buying?
Eight of 13 major categories, including furniture, health and personal care, and electronics and appliances saw increased sales.
Sporting goods, clothing and accessories, and building-supply shops were among those that saw declines. (Read more about which retailers are in and which are out.)
Sales at non-store retailers climbed 9.7% year over year.
While the numbers are certainly a bright spot, and with consumer sentiment at a 14-year high, retailers are still far from out of the woods.
And though the macro picture remains largely positive, there is concern about the impact of a possible trade war with China.
Department stores were among those that saw their sales fall in March, and department store operator Bon-Ton Stores has become among the latest to announce it will go out of business, after it filed for bankruptcy in February.
Indeed, U.S. retailers are on track to surpass last year’s record 105 million square feet of store closures, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Among this year’s victims are 63 Sam’s Club locations, Toys “R” Us and Sears Holdings, which is shuttering 39 Sears stores and 64 Kmart locations.
While there is reason for optimism after the best month reported in a while, retail industry observers may want to wait for more evidence of a trend before getting too excited about the latest numbers.