Retail sales for March fell 9.4 percent compared with a year ago, according to a report April 14 from the U.S. Census Bureau, as the recession took a big bite out of consumer spending. Total sales for the month amounted to $344.4 billion.
Retail sales were down 1.1 percent from February to March, indicating a deepening trend. Total sales for the first quarter were down 8.8 percent from a year ago, the Census Bureau said.
Retail trade sales were down 1.1 percent from February and 10.7 percent from a year ago, according to Census Bureau figures. But the National Retail Federation’s numbers exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants and thus only decreased 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from February and dropped 3.7 percent unadjusted from last year.
After the huge drop in gasoline prices in the past year, gasoline sales in March were 34 percent below last year’s figure. Motor vehicle parts dealers, whose prices have not fallen so hard, reported sales fell 23.5 percent.
“A chilly start to spring and a late Easter combined for dreary March sales,” said Rosalind Wells, chief economist for NRF. “To compensate for the Easter shift, retailers typically look at March and April together to get a better look at how their stores performed. Easter should give a much-needed boost to April sales.”