By Alan Wolf, YSN
What a difference a year makes.
Twelve months after COVID quarantines left furniture stores and some appliance shops shuttered, dealers are making up for lost time and then some.
According to the government’s latest retail sales figures, covering the month of April, business was on fire for merchants of all stripes, although furniture and appliance dealers led the pack.
The monthly numbers, released by the U.S. Census Department, show that sales for furniture and home furnishings stores skyrocketed 196 percent in April from a year ago, to $12.3 billion.
Appliance and consumer tech stores, which largely remained open throughout the pandemic, also fared well in April. Sales for the channel soared 139 percent year over year, to $8.4 billion, adding to the inventory constraints caused by a hobbled supply chain.
By comparison, total retail sales rose 46 percent from April 2020, to $555 billion.
But as strong a showing as the furniture and appliance crowd enjoyed, apparel was the big winner last month. Sales exploded 727 percent year over year as the country began to reopen and consumers started swapping out sweatpants for street clothes, in anticipation of a return to offices, schools and vacations.
However, absent the year-over-year comparisons, revenue growth was far more placid. Appliance sales in April were essentially flat from the prior month, and sell-through for appliance and CE dealers edged up a mere 1.2 percent, albeit over an exceptionally strong March.
The National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association, sees strength in both sets of sales comparisons.
“The economy and consumer spending have proven to be much more resilient than many feared a year ago,” observed NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “Today’s year-over-year numbers are off the charts in some categories, reflecting the disparity between retailers that could remain open a year ago and those that were forced to shut down. Consumers may have tapped the brakes slightly in April compared with March, but it was like going from 100 mph to 85 mph compared with last year.”
Kleinhenz added that the fuel from stimulus checks “gave a strong boost to spending in March and the fact that April numbers are very close shows spending is clearly going forward and still strong.”