Jewelry store sales fell 9.3 percent year on year in April to $1.996 billion, according to U.S. government calculations released today. Preliminary department store sales data for May reflects flat growth at $14.576 billion. Both figures clearly reflected weaker consumer spending on jewelry and for general merchandise.
Nonetheless, the U.S. estimated that total retail and food services sales for May rose 5.3 percent year on year to $404.6 billion. Retail trade sales were up 5 percent from one year ago.
The National Retail Federation (NRF,) concluded in its own report that retail sales in May reflected a ''more practical approach'' to consumer spending patterns. The NRF calculated retail sales growth of 4.8 percent year on year on an unadjusted basis.
“As the first industry to feel any backlash from consumers’ attitudes about the revival of the economy, retailers are far from discouraged by May’s sales report, it’s evident that consumers are simply taking a breath,” said NRF's president, Matthew Shay. “Going forward, retailers will make sure to keep a steady eye on key economic indicators, being cautious with inventory and promotions as back to school — the second-biggest time of the year — approaches.”
NRF's chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, compared the U.S. economy to ''an old machine with many fits, starts and even some sputtering.''
He added, ''Overall, though, consumers are benefiting from the slow but steady decline in gasoline prices and we expect growth will resume, and should pick up through the fall.''