Make us your home page
Instagram

Retail sales pick up, but brick-and-mortar stores still ailing

Window shoppers look into a store on Miami Beach last month. On Friday, the Commerce Department reported a rise in retail sales. 
[Associated Press]


Window shoppers look into a store on Miami Beach last month. On Friday, the Commerce Department reported a rise in retail sales. [Associated Press]

WASHINGTON — Americans stepped up their spending at auto dealers, hardware stores and e-commerce outlets as retail sales rebounded from two sluggish months.

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales increased 0.4 percent in April from March. Sales ticked up just 0.1 percent in March and fell in February.

The increase suggests that consumers are poised to spur faster growth in the April-June quarter after the economy barely expanded in the first three months of the year. Consumer spending — which also includes spending on services such as utilities — rose at its slowest pace in more than seven years in the first quarter.

The rise also indicates that the struggles of large retail chains, such as Macy's and JC Penney's, reflect changes in consumer buying patterns more than broader economic weakness. Sales in a category that includes department stores, as well as general retailers such as Wal-Mart, fell 0.5 percent in April, the government said. Yet a category that includes online retailers reported sales growth of 1.4 percent, the strongest of any group.

"The retail sales data provide further reason to expect that overall consumption growth will be much stronger in the second quarter," said Andrew Hunter, U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

The sales gains were widespread, as Americans spent more at electronics and appliance stores, health care retailers, and sporting goods outlets. Sales fell at grocery stores and clothing merchants.

Americans ate out more, boosting spending at restaurants and bars 0.4 percent. Auto sales rose 0.7 percent after falling in March.

Consumer confidence has soared since the presidential election, but spending hasn't increased as much as the jump in optimism would suggest. Last month's gain in retail sales was solid but not particularly strong.

Hiring has been steady and the unemployment rate fell to a ten-year low of 4.4 percent in April. Yet average hourly pay rose just 2.5 percent over the past year. And inflation has ticked up, eroding most of that wage gain. In a separate report, the Labor Department said consumer prices increased 2.2 percent in the past year.

The slowdown in consumer spending over the winter added to the woes of many retailers. On Wednesday Macy's reported sharply lower sales and profits, causing a collapse in its share price.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are suffering through their worst patch since the Great Recession. More than twice as many stores have closed this year than at the same point last year. Bankruptcies are far outpacing last year's rate. Retailers slashed jobs at the sharpest pace in seven years this spring. And retailers collectively could report the biggest drop in first-quarter profits since 2009.

Retail sales pick up, but brick-and-mortar stores still ailing 05/12/17 [Last modified: Friday, May 12, 2017 10:05am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards

    Business

    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

]

  2. Strategic Property Partners launches website for Water Street Tampa

    Business

    Strategic Property Partners has launched its official website for Water Street Tampa, its 53-acre redevelopment project in downtown Tampa Tuesday.

    Strategic Property Partners on Tuesday announced the name of its new development: Water Street Tampa. [Photos courtesy of SPP]
  3. ReliaQuest CEO Brian Murphy named sole Tampa Bay winner in EY state entrepreneur contest

    Business

    ReliaQuest founder and CEO Brian Murphy was named one of nine winners statewide and the only one from the Tampa Bay area in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Florida Awards program. Murphy won in the IT security division after starting ReliaQuest in 2007. Five of the nine winners were from the Miami …

    Tampa's ReliaQuest founder and CEO Brian Murphy was named one of nine winners statewide and the only one from the Tampa Bay area in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Florida Awards program. Murphy won in the IT security division after starting ReliaQuest in 2007.
  4. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    Former Florida Gov. and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their condo in downtown St. Petersburg on the market for $1.5 million. [Courtesy of Rhonda Sanderford]