RAPAPORT... U.S. jewelry store sales rose 2.2 percent year on year to $2.376 billion in March. The increase was in line with overall U.S. jewelry and watch sales growth during the month, which improved 2.3 percent to $5.633 billion, according to preliminary estimates reported by Rapaport News on May 1. However, price pressure on jewelry continued to ease in March, as the consumer price index dropped 2.6 percent.
Jewelry store sales have risen 4.7 percent year on year to $7.335 billion for the first three months of 2014.
Advanced estimates for retail sales at U.S. department stores in April revealed an increase of 3.4 percent year on year to $13.01 billion. Retail and food services sales in April rose 4 percent to $434.6 billion. Retail trade sales improved 4.2 percent. Nonstore retail sales jumped 6.5 percent.
Lindsey Piegza, the chief economist at Sterne Agee, concluded that U.S. consumers pulled back on spending in April. "Remember, consumers were busy spending at the end of the year and into 2014, but just not on goods. Service spending was the name of the game, particularly healthcare services as consumers enrolled in Obamacare and utilities spending as the average family shelled out an extra $600 or, in some cases, $1,000 more this season just to heat the family home and combat one of the worst winters in years. This pent up demand for goods purchases, however, appears to have been satisfied in just two months time as the robust spending levels of February and March have all but disappeared into a lackluster near zero pace of spending at the start of the second quarter. Not a great first sign for those holding onto the dream of 3 percent or 4 percent gross domestic product (GDP) in the near term. Of course one monthly retail sales report is not enough to extrapolate quarterly GDP, but it certainly undermines same of the optimism out in the marketplace."
The National Retail Federation (NRF) determined that consumers tempered their spending in April. NRF's president, Matthew Shay, said, “The shift in Easter to April did not provide enough bounce to retailers as retail sales struggled to keep their strong spring pace. With consumer spending accounting for roughly 70 percent of total economic activity, NRF remains hopeful that the uninspiring April retail sales figures are just a temporary seasonal fluctuation.”
The NRF stated that clothing and clothing accessories stores' sales improved 5.2 percent in April, unadjusted year-over-year, while general merchandise stores' sales rose 5.3 percent. Electronics and appliance stores’ sales decreased 1.8 percent, however, furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales increased 3.6 percent.
NRF's chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, said, “Even though retail sales were weaker than anticipated, the fundamentals of the economy, including improving job growth and income gains, remain positive. While the shift in Easter played into the seasonal figures, NRF remains optimistic that retail sales will keep their positive trajectory, albeit in fits-and-starts, in the second quarter.”