Auto sales drive retail sales increases in April

Don Hogsett, May 20, 2002

Lifted by a strong spurt in auto sales, overall retail sales surged by 1.2 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted level of $300.3 billion, the Commerce Department reported, the biggest one-month gain since October 2001.

The better-than-expected retail numbers were fueled by improvements across most channels of distribution, and gainers outnumbered decliners nine to four as consumers pulled out their wallets and spent at a more aggressive pace, a resoundingly unambiguous signal that the nation's economy is on the mend. Analysts had been expecting a much more modest gain of 0.7 percent for the month.

Fueling the surge in retail sales was a big 1.9 percent increase in big-ticket auto sales, the industry's strongest showing since last October.

With warmer weather signaling spring cleaning and do-it-yourself season, sales at building supply and garden stores, including home improvement centers, advanced a strong 2.7 percent.

But giving up some of the strong gains they rung up in recent months were home goods retailers. Sales at furniture and home furnishings retailers sagged by 1.4 percent, and the recently hot electronics and appliances channel managed a skimpy 0.1 percent increase.

Retail Sales in April (by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Building materials & garden supplies +2.7%
Gas stations +2.0
Car dealers +1.9
Health & personal care +1.9
Non-store retailers +1.5
Clothing & accessories +0.7
Department stores +0.6
Restaurants & bars +0.6
Electronics & appliances +0.1
Furniture and home furnishings -1.4%
Food & beverage stores -0.2
Grocery stores -0.2
Sporting goods, hobby, books & music -0.1

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