For Retailers, March Came in Like a Lion … and Stayed That Way

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Spurred by a new wave of stimulus checks and emboldened by their COVID vaccines, consumers spent in a big way last month, driving retail sales to their highest levels since last May.

According to the latest monthly revenue figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, overall retail sales (excluding car dealers, gas stations and restaurants) soared 17.7 percent year over year in March and rocketed nearly 28 percent from February, when sales for most merchants declined.

See: February Home Goods Sales Take a Breather

The numbers were even grander for BrandSource member categories: Sales at appliance and electronics stores were up 29 percent over last year, and furniture and home furnishings stores enjoyed a nearly 50 percent spike in business, the Census Bureau said.

The government data was confirmed anecdotally during this week’s raft of BrandSource Region call-ins, where members reported robust sell-through and extended work weeks, and AVB’s chief merchant Chad Evans said the group’s appliance sales continue to outpace the industry.

Matthew Shay, president/CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association, said last month’s strong performance bodes well for the balance of the year. “The dramatic increase in March retail sales confirms that a confident consumer is driving the economic rebound, and that should continue through the remainder of 2021,” he said.

NRF’s chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, echoed Shay’s rosy outlook. “Today’s data confirms reports that people are going out and spending and that in-store traffic has picked up,” he said. “After a disappointing February, there was a perfect alignment of factors supporting a surge in shopping in March. Further reopening of the economy was encouraged by economic stimulus payments, the public health situation improved with more vaccinations, employment grew and there was seasonal activity around Passover, Easter and spring break.”

“Even with some stimulus money going to savings,” Kleinhenz continued, “consumers’ finances are healthy, and they are willing to spend. Retail sales supported by rigorous fiscal and monetary policy continue to be a bright spot in the economy and have provided momentum during this awful pandemic.”

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress and CE dealers.