A pickup in U.S. retail sales last month adds to signs of steady consumer spending that will help propel the economy after a first-quarter slowdown, Commerce Department data showed Friday. Commerce reported that nonstore retailers April sales increased 11.9 percent annually.
Retail trade sales were up 0.4% from March 2017, and up 4.5% from a year ago.
The increase in retail sales was partly due to a rebound in auto sales, with sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers rising by 0.7% in March after falling by 0.5% in February.
Sales at US retailers rose in April, and March sales were stronger than originally estimated, painting a stronger picture of American consumers than previously reported.
Purchases also improved at internet retailers, restaurants, sporting goods stores and building materials outlets.
Sales at clothing and accessories specialty stores were virtually unchanged compared to April 2016, but decreased on a 12-month smoothed basis, according to revised figures.
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Closely watched core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline, building materials and food service, edged up by 0.2% in April after climbing by 0.7% in March.
As well as retail sales data, investors were also digesting the latest U.S. inflation figures. And total retail sales from February through April were up 4.7 percent annually, according to Commerce.
In a report emailed to Retail Dive earlier this week, Retail Metrics analyst Ken Perkins compares retailers' situation to the troubles retailers faced coming out of the Great Recession eight years ago.
"Retail is in a state of flux and is facing many challenges, but the source of these difficulties is not, primarily, a function of consumers spending less. Low retail price inflation has continued, drawing in shoppers but providing heartburn to the bottom line for many retailers". Retailers slashed jobs at the sharpest pace in seven years this spring.
By many accounts, retail sales picked up in the later part of the first quarter of 2017; J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison made a note of that in his statement on the company's report Friday morning. Sales at department stores rose 0.2 percent, rather than falling 0.2 percent.