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April retail sales show modest growth, according to Commerce and NRF data

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
May 13, 2011

Data published this week by the United States Department of Commerce and the National Retail Federation (NRF) shows that retail sales are still in a modest growth pattern.

April retail sales, which include non-general merchandise like automobiles, gasoline, and restaurants, were $389.4 billion for a 0.5 percent increase from March and a 7.6 percent increase compared to April 2010, according to Commerce data. Commerce said that total retail sales from February through April were up 8.1 percent annually.

April also represents the tenth straight month of increased retail sales.

The NRF reported that April retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, were up 0.2 percent from March on a seasonally-adjusted basis and up 4.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Positive economic indicators such as increases in job openings and wage growth are certainly helping boost consumers’ confidence, and support spending,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz in a statement. “While there are reasons to be optimistic, plenty of other concerns exist which could very easily shift consumers’ spending habits, including decreasing home prices, high unemployment levels and rising costs at the pump.”

As LM has reported, with the price per gallon of diesel fuel now officially north of $4, there remains a distinct possibility that future retail sales could tail off or remain relatively flat in the coming months. Should prices continue to increase, it has the potential to negatively off-set the slow but steady growth which has been occurring in recent months.

While fuel prices are on the rise, there has been some moderation in freight volumes, specifically on the trucking side, with volume levels still well below pre-recession levels. But shippers and carriers maintain that retail-related tonnage will continue to display growth in the coming months.

In an interview with LM, Tim Feemster, Sr. Vice President, Director Global Logistics at Grubb & Ellis said that even though freight volumes are relatively flat, he said fuel prices have moderated the retail sales growth curve.”

“We are having a slow recovery, and higher fuel prices make it even slower,” said Feemster. “The key thing from our perspective is that things are not going down, especially when you compare it to 2009 levels.”


About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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