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U.S. Jewelry Store Sales +4%, Department Store Revenue Declines

NRF Blames Harmful Washington Policies for Weaker Spending

Apr 12, 2013 10:46 AM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... U.S. jewelry store sales rose 3.8 percent year on year in February to $2.756 billion, which was a new high for the month, according to government calculations. In addition, the consumer price inflation (CPI) for jewelry fell 3 percent in February. However, the sales increase was much lower than what was calculated for the month of January. Additionally, January's sales figure was revised $20 million lower than earlier estimates to $1.934 billion, representing a year-on-year increase of 13.5 percent. For the first two months of 2013, U.S. jewelry store sales have risen a healthy 7.6 percent to $4.69 billion and the CPI has fallen by almost 4 percent.

Jewelry stores sales appeared to be one of the bright spots in retailing heading in March. Department stores and general merchandise sales have come under pressure since the first of the year. Advanced sales for March at U.S. department stores plunged 6.4 percent year on year to $13.893 billion, following similar declines in February and January.  retail sales march

U.S. chain-store sales in March posted a comparable-store sales increase of 1.6 percent year on year, which the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) called a ''modest gain'' that failed to meet expectations of a 3 percent increase. ICSC blamed cooler than average weather in some parts of the U.S. for weaker growth rates. Even Easter, having fallen on  March 31, failed to bump retail sales as expected.

“Sales numbers over the past two months have been softer due largely in part to cooler weather patterns,” said Michael P. Niemira, the vice president of research and chief economist for ICSC. “I am optimistic that April’s numbers will have a more positive outlook as warmer temperatures should drive demand for seasonal apparel.”

Given that prediction, ICSC anticipates that comparable-store sales will increase by between 2 percent and 3 percent in April.

In a separate report, the National Retail Federation (NRF) blamed a harmful fiscal policy, set by Washington politicians, for weaker than expected retail sales in March. The NRF pointed out that  the payroll tax hike that took affect January 1, finally caught up with the economy and weakened retail sales this past month. Similarly to ICSC's report, the NRF concluded that  retail sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, rose 1.6 percent year-over-year on an unadjusted basis.

"Retail is the vehicle that drives our economy, and the consumer dictates the speed,” said NRF's president, Matthew Shay. “With consumer confidence low, Washington decision makers need to focus on a long-term, economic roadmap that creates fiscal certainty for American families. And we need policies that encourage job growth and capital investment by business generally and the retail industry specifically, an industry that supports one in four American jobs. Without either, economic recovery will continue to sputter along, and the consumer will keep their foot off the pedal.”

NRF's chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, added, “The fall off in spending is no surprise. A colder-than-usual winter, an anemic employment picture and delays in tax refunds impacted consumer spending across the board in March. While we remain optimistic that retail sales will grow modestly this year, it seems like the economy is off to a shaky start as we enter the second quarter. Improving housing prices and lower gas prices may help to offset the toll of increased taxes and sequester.”

The NRF concluded that retail sales for building materials, garden equipment and supplies, electronics and appliances, and health and personal care products all declined in March. However, sales of clothing and accessories, home furnishings, and sporting goods and hobby items posted modest gains. Non-store retailers experienced a 10.1 percent year on year increase in March.

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Tags: cpi, department stores, ICSC, Jeff Miller, jewelry stores, march, NRF, retail sales
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