April Retail Results Mixed

Don Hogsett, May 15, 2006

Boosted by soaring prices at the pump and getting a further lift from a late Easter shopping season, total U.S. retail sales perked up by 0.5% in April, rising to $362.7 billion from $360.9 billion during April, the Commerce Department reported.

The picture looked even better when highly volatile car sales, which slipped by 0.4%, are pulled out of the equation, yielding a rise of 0.7%.

But the April reading was heavily skewed by sharply rising gas prices, which shot up by 4.6% from March, and which accounted for 10% of all retail sales in the United States during the month. Pull gas stations out of the picture, and the gains, while real, were far more subdued at other retail channels.

Getting past cars and gasoline, the biggest winner during April was a highly seasonal catch-all category that lumps together sporting goods, hobby, books and music stores: sales there rose by 0.8%. Non-store retailers had another good month, up 0.5%.

Performance was spotty in various home-related channels. Electronics and appliance store sales ticked up by 0.4%, but sales in furniture and home furnishings stores were off slightly, by 0.1%. Taking a big hit after a steep jump the month before, sales at building material and garden supply outlets faded by 1.6%.

Retail Sales in April
(by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Gas stations 4.6%
Sport. goods, books, music 0.8
Non-store retailers 0.5
Grocery stores 0.5
Electronics & appliances 0.4
Restaurants & bars 0.4
Health & personal care 0.3
Clothing & accessories 0.3
Bldg. mat./garden sup. -1.6%
Car dealers -0.4
Department stores -0.1
Furn. & home furn. Stores -0.1

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