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U.S. Retail Growth Slows in May

High-end jewelry posts best month so far in 2011.

Jun 2, 2011 10:14 AM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... Strong high-end jewelry sales were not enough to spur growth in the general U.S. retail market in May as MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse report highlighted a slowdown in the recent growth momentum during the month.

“Because the late Easter holiday boosted April’s year-over-year comparisons in some sectors, the May growth rates can look flattened by comparison, especially in apparel, luxury, and groceries where the growth rates were only about half what they were in April,” said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for SpendingPulse. “At the same time, jewelry had its best year on year rate in 2011, and unlike the mixed results in April, every sub-category of restaurants showed year-over-year growth in May.”

SpendingPulse did not disclose the overall growth rate or the separate jewelry increase for the month. The SpendingPulse Luxury Index, which excludes jewelry, rose 4.7 percent in May, marking a slower growth rate than that of previous months but also the eighth consecutive month of year-on-year gains for this category. Other strong categories included  e-commerce, where sales rose 15.9 percent with online apparel up 19 percent. Total apparel sales increased 5.9 percent in May, according to SpendingPulse.
The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) reported that chain store sales rose 5.4 percent in May, slowing from the 8.5 percent growth seen in April but still registering as the second strongest month of the year so far. Michael Niemira, chief economist and vice president of research for ICSC, noted pockets of weakness at some mid-tier retailers and among apparel retailers.

McNamara said that gasoline prices were still a cause for concern despite the recent decline in prices. “We have been seeing a regular decline in gasoline, with barrels pumped declining by 1 percent to 2 percent,” he said. “The higher gas prices, though, do not seem to have had an impact on travel-related categories including hotel or restaurant sales or spending in automotive-related sectors like tires, parts and service.”

Tags: Avi Krawitz, e-commerce, High-end jewelry, Jewelry, luxury, U.S. retail
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