(RAPAPORT) U.S. department store sales in April 2011 were flat at $14.3 billion on an unadjusted basis compared with April 2010. On an adjusted basis however, the figure dropped 1.9 percent to $15.3 billion, according to the government. Retail trade sales rose 7.9 percent year on year.
Advance estimates of all U.S. retail and food services sales for April rose 7.6 percent year on year to $389.4 billion.
In its own report, the National Retail Federation (NRF) today confirmed that higher commodity prices were impacting consumer spending. NRF pegged retail industry sales, which excluded automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, for the month of April increased 4 percent unadjusted from April 2010. The "positive but modest increase" was evidence enough "that some consumers are beginning to feel the strain of high food and gas costs," according to NRF.
Matthew Shay, NRF president, noted that higher commodity prices were beginning to weigh on some consumers. “For the retail industry to continue to lead the charge, Congress must address the legislative uncertainty from issues like credit card company 'swipe' fees, uncompetitive tax laws, and the new health care law.”
NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz added, “Positive economic indicators such as increases in job openings and wage growth are certainly helping boost consumers’ confidence, and support spending. While there are reasons to be optimistic, plenty of other concerns exist which could very easily shift consumers’ spending habits, including decreasing home prices, high unemployment levels and rising costs at the pump.”
NRF noted that the Easter holiday helped boost apparel sales, but electronic and appliance stores were basically flat. Home furnishing sales were basically flat, but building materials sales dropped by single-digits.