Retail Sales Drop 16.4% Month-Over-Month In April Due To COVID-19

  • May 15, 2020 at 10:54 AM EDT
  • By Bryan Wassel
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U.S. retail and food service sales dropped an estimated 16.4% from the previous month in April, nearly doubling the revised 8.3% decline experienced in March, according to data from the Census Bureau. Sales totaled $403.9 billion for the month.

Clothing and accessory stores took the biggest hit, with sales plummeting 78.8% month-over-monthand 89.3% year-over-year. Non-store retailers, a category that includes e-Commerce companies, provided a bright spot: sales at these businesses were up 8.4% month-over-month and 21.6% year-over-year. Other retail sectors’ performance fell somewhere in between these results:

  • Furniture and home furnishings: Down 58.7% month-over-month, 66.5% year-over-year;
  • Electronics and appliances: Down 60.6% month-over-month, 64.8% from year-over-year;
  • Food and beverage stores: Down 13.1% month-over-month, up 12% year-over-year
  • Grocery stores: Down 13.2% month-over-month, up 13.2% year-over-year;
  • Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument and book stores: Down 38% month-over-month, 48.9% year-over-year;
  • General merchandise: Down 20.8% month-over-month, 14.9% year-over-year; and
  • Department stores: Down 28.9% month-over-month, 47% year-over-year.

“These retail sales numbers are not a surprise given the current state of affairs,” said Matthew Shay, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation in a statement. “The vast majority of retail stores have been closed, we are in the midst of historic unemployment and when it comes to personal finances, discretionary spending takes a back seat to essentials. Prior to this pandemic, retail was setting records in year-over-year growth, employment and investment. It is a resilient industry serving a smart consumer, and despite today’s report, we know it will be leading our nation’s economic recovery as this crisis recedes.”

However, some analysts were less bullish on the possibility of a rapid recovery. The economic impact of COVID-19 has rippled across the country, hurting shoppers as well as retailers, which could continue to weigh on performance in the coming months.

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“The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a virtual shutdown in U.S. economic activity, causing unemployment to surge and consumer sentiment and confidence to plunge — reasons why we have a negative outlook for the retail sector, and expect the U.S. economy to sink into recession in 2020,” said Mickey Chadha, VP – Senior Credit Officer at Moody’s in commentary provided to Retail TouchPoints.

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