Broad-based strength in retail sales
April 19, 2004,
Helped by the weather and stronger sales of cars and home improvement products, retail sales climbed unexpectedly higher during March, the Commerce Department reported, jumping 1.8 percent from February levels, and up 8.2 percent from the same period a year ago.
The strongest retail channel was the nation's building material and garden supplies outlets, where weather worked in favor of retailers, driving sales up 10.6 percent from February, and up 20.8 percent from prior-year levels. Auto sales were strong as well, rising 2.1 percent from February, and by a solid 7.2 percent from last year.
Also helped by the weather and an early Easter; sales at clothing and accessories stores jumped 1.9 percent from the preceding month, and by 9.6 percent from the same period a year ago.
Furniture and home furniture stores posted a 1.2 percent gain over February and rose by 9.8 percent from last year. Another home-related category — electronics and appliances — was near flat with last month, up 0.2 percent, but still climbed 10.9 percent from year-before levels.
Retail sales in March (by channel)
|Building material & garden supplies||+10.6%|
|Clothing & accessories||+1.9|
|Furniture & home furnishings stores||+1.2|
|Health & personal care stores||+1.1|
|Restaurants & bars||+0.6|
|Electronics & appliance stores||+0.2|
|Sporting goods, hobby, books & music||-0.7|
|Source: U.S. Department of Commerce|