Retail Sales Inch Up

Don Hogsett, April 25, 2005

Washington — Hit hard by rising gas prices and unsettled weather across parts of the country, retail sales limped ahead a skimpy 0.3 percent in March, the Commerce Department reported.

When rising car sales are pulled out of the equation, the overall gain at retail was even smaller, sales inching up just one-tenth of a percentage point. Helping to dive the overall total higher, car sales improved 0.7 percent during the month.

By far the biggest winner at retail — and pulling disposable dollars away from almost every other category — was gas station sales, which climbed 2.1 percent, the Commerce Department reported. Over the past 12 months, gas station sales have shot up 17.8 percent, the agency said.

Along with gas stations, the other big winner during March was the do-it-yourself channel, with sales at building material and garden supplies outlets climbing 1.5 percent.

But notably hard hit by spotty weather across parts of the country, which hurt sales of seasonal apparel, sales at department stores tumbled 2 percent. Sales at clothing and accessories stores fell 1.9 percent.

Retail sales in March
by channel

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Gas stations +2.1%
Building mat./garden supplies 1.5
Non-store retailers 1.2
Sporting goods, books, music 0.8
Car dealers 0.7
Health & personal care 0.1
Grocery stores 0.1
Department stores -2.0%
Clothing & accessories -1.9
Restaurants & bars -0.7
Furniture & home furnishings -0.6
Electronics & appliances -0.3

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