RETAIL SALES GREW 0.3 PERCENT IN MARCH

WASHINGTON – Retail sales in March increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over February and 3.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year, according to calculations released today by the National Retail Federation. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“Various factors were at play in the first quarter, but we are again seeing a pattern similar to previous years — consumer spending was weak but is expected to pick up as we move through the year,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

“A lack of pricing power continues to plague the retail industry,” Kleinhenz said, noting that Consumer Price Index numbers released today showed prices reversing course in March. “There is no doubt that weak pricing power led to the bumpy period for retailers in the first part of this year.”

On a three-month moving average, retail sales have grown 2.8 percent year-over-year. When looking at business lines, performance in March was again uneven as clothing and accessories and general merchandise saw slight gains while there were declines in building materials and supplies and sporting goods, likely due to winter weather. Nonetheless, the sectors with declines showed increases year-over-year.

A few specifics include:

  • Online and other non-store sales increased 0.6 percent over February and increased 11.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at clothing and accessories stores increased 1 percent seasonally adjusted from February but decreased 2.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at general merchandise stores increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over February and remained even year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliances stores’ sales increased 2.6 percent seasonally adjusted over February but decreased 0.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales decreased 0.3 percent from February but increased 3.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at building materials and supplies stores decreased 1.5 percent seasonally adjusted from February but increased 6.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores’ sales decreased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from February and decreased 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted over February and increased 5.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.

April 14, 2017

Retail Payrolls Sustain a New Blow as Shopping Habits Shift

The New York Times
By PATRICIA COHEN

Doors at many Macy’s, Sears and J. C. Penney stores may still be open, but some of the jobs they once supported are starting to vanish.

General merchandise stores shed 34,700 jobs in March, the government announced Friday, the single most disappointing figure in a generally disappointing jobs report.

After hitting a low point during the recession in December 2009, the retail sector has reliably been churning out more jobs. Though the Labor Department’s monthly employment summary provides only a snapshot of the labor market, this is the second month in a row that retail payrolls have registered substantial losses — a possible sign that larger structural changes are in the works.

“E-commerce and technology have absolutely changed the rules of the game and given massive amounts of power to the consumer,” said Simeon Siegel, a retail analyst at Nomura. “There is a self-help mentality now. People walk around with their phones in their hand to tell them the best model and the best price. You don’t need as many people walking around trying to convince you to buy a sweater.”

The vitality of the retail sector has been muscled out of the spotlight lately by a focus on better-paying manufacturing jobs, which President Trump sees as crucial to the revival of the middle class, particularly in the Midwest and the South. But retail outlets still employ millions of Americans and serve as an entry point into the labor force, especially for those with less education and fewer skills.

Remember that while General Motors was once the single largest employer, today Walmart is.

Yet even Walmart is having to contend with a sea change in the way people shop. The company, for instance, has been closing smaller stores in rural areas, according to Barbara Denham, a senior economist at Reis, a real estate data and analytics firm.

Jack Kleinhenz, the chief economist at the National Retail Federation, does not discount the magnitude of the transformation that is occurring in retail, but cautioned that the monthly job figures are also highly subject to temporary vagaries. “One of the challenges we have at this time of the year is the quirkiness of seasonal forces,” he said.

An unexpectedly warm February and snowy March and the late arrival of Easter could have elbowed the numbers in an uncharacteristic way.

The retail employment number, he said, does not necessarily “translate into backsliding of retail sales.”

Diane Swonk, the chief executive of DS Economics in Chicago, agreed. The falloff in hiring “is not a reflection of a consumer than can’t spend, but rather of how they spend,” she said. “Retail is one of the largest employers in the country, and it’s going to go through a pretty massive secular restructuring. We shop differently now, and no one has the right model.”

Most shopping is still done in person rather than online, but shopping patterns are shifting. Ms. Swonk mentioned research that shows consumers like to buy online but return things to bricks-and-mortar stores.

“Clearly, it’s just not one or the other, not just bricks or clicks,” she said. But the marketplace is rapidly changing and retailers “are not sure what the endgame is.”

E-commerce may cause a drop in retail jobs, but a rise in warehouse, distribution and transportation jobs.

At the same time, consumers have not only been changing how they shop, but what they buy. Ms. Denham noted that while the entire retail sector ended up down nearly 30,000 jobs, the restaurant industry showed a gain of 20,000 in March on top of steady previous growth.

“There’s been a shift in consumer spending from things to experiences,” she said, “that’s why restaurants are doing so well.”

RETAIL SALES GREW 0.2 PERCENT IN FEBRUARY

February retail sales grew 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted over January and 0.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year, according to calculations released today by the National Retail Federation. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“Sales growth held up well, given warmer than normal weather and tax refund delays,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

“While consumers benefit by purchasing more for less, the top-line retail numbers reflect a lack of pricing power and, in many cases, hide underlying consumer demand.”

“While consumer spending in the first quarter has been erratic and most often weak, it registers positive improvement as the year continues,” Kleinhenz said.

On a three-month moving average year-over-year, retail sales have grown 2.8 percent. When looking at business lines, performance in February was very mixed as electronics and appliance stores saw declines while building materials and garden supplies saw solid growth.

A few specifics from the report include:

  • Online and other non-store sales increased 1.2 percent over the previous month and increased 8.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at clothing and accessories stores decreased 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month and decreased 1.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at general merchandise stores decreased 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 1.4 percent year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliances stores’ sales decreased 2.8 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 9.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales increased 0.7 percent over the previous month and increased 1.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at building materials and supplies stores increased 1.8 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 3.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores’ sales decreased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 6.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 2.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

FOLLOWING JOB GAINS IN JANUARY, RETAILERS SCALE BACK IN FEBRUARY

Retail industry employment decreased by 31,300 jobs in February from January, offsetting gains made the previous month, the National Retail Federation said today. The retail numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Despite the correction in retail, the overall economy gained 235,000 jobs in February, the Labor Department said.

“Mild weather contributed to retailers scaling back employment in February, reversing the gains the industry made in January,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “However, the surge in consumer and business optimism may have propelled the economy-wide increase in jobs last month and supports our prediction for stronger consumer spending and retail sales for 2017.”

Average hourly earnings were up 2.8 percent year-over-year, compared with 2.5 percent in January.

The Labor Department said February unemployment fell to 4.7 percent, down from 4.8 percent in January.

RETAIL SALES UP 0.4 PERCENT IN JANUARY

January retail sales grew a solid 3.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year and 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted from an already-strong December, according to calculations released today by the National Retail Federation. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“The healthy monthly gain was driven by January’s strong payroll gains, retail employment gains and business sentiment.”
Jack Kleinhenz
NRF Chief Economist

“The retail industry started the year on a high note, continuing the momentum from the 2016 holiday season. The healthy monthly gain was driven by January’s strong payroll gains, retail employment gains and business sentiment,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

“We haven’t seen strong January growth in several years, which indicates that consumers are increasing their spending and remain the leading driver of the economy,” Kleinhenz said.

There were broad-based monthly increases across the majority of sectors, with the exception of non-store, which was flat in January.

A few specifics from the report include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were flat over the previous month and increased 14.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at clothing and accessories stores increased 1 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month and increased 0.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at general merchandise stores increased 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 1.4 percent year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliances stores’ sales increased 1.6 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 1.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales were flat over the previous month and decreased 0.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at building materials and supplies stores increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 6.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores’ sales increased 1.8 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and decreased 3.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over the previous month and increased 9.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

More people shopped over Thanksgiving weekend than last year — but they spent less

About 154 million shoppers made purchases at stores or on e-commerce sites this holiday weekend, the National Retail Federation reported Sunday, a bump up from the 151 million people who last year participated in the annual barrage of Black Friday deals.

And though it is encouraging for the retail industry that more consumers opened their wallets this time around, it wasn’t all good news: Average spending per person was down to $289.19 from $299.60 in 2015.

Matt Shay, the chief executive of the National Retail Federation (NRF), attributed the decline in spending to just how deep and broad the discounts were over the four-day weekend. While the promotions offered during this period were probably preplanned and thus baked into the retailers’ sales plans, it could prove a troublesome dynamic for them if ultra-deep discounts end up being needed all season long to get people shopping.

But other factors could have contributed to the decline in per-person spending: Retailers have been spreading their Black Friday deals out over a longer stretch, so it’s possible that many people pounced on offers several days before Thanksgiving even arrived. And NRF’s survey found that about 122 million people plan to shop on Cyber Monday, up from 121 million last year. So perhaps some consumers are holding out for the fresh batch of deals that will arrive after the weekend comes to an end.

The survey results reflect the increasing importance of e-commerce in the retail landscape. This year, about 108.5 million people shopped online over the holiday season, compared with 103 million last year. Meanwhile, the number of people who shopped in stores fell to 99.1 million from 101 million last year.

Indeed, other data released this weekend offers evidence that online spending was strong on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Adobe, which analyzed 22.6 billion visits to retail websites, reports that a record $3.34 billion was spent online on Black Friday, up 21.6 percent from the previous year. Sales on Thanksgiving Day were up 11.5 percent to $1.93 billion.

Adobe’s research found that top-selling items included iPads, Samsung 4K televisions and toys such as Lego Creator sets and the Barbie Dreamhouse.

The NRF had earlier projected that the retail industry would see a 3.6 percent increase in sales this holiday season over last year. That would be significantly better than the 3 percent growth registered in 2015. The trade group’s chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, said Sunday that he believes that prediction “holds up pretty well” right now, even as some have asked whether the surprising election results might have altered consumers’ mind-set.

Experts say that in a presidential campaign year, we typically see that the election serves as a temporary distraction, with shoppers getting their gift-buying started a little later than they might otherwise. NRF’s survey seems to reflect that dynamic: About 23 percent of respondents said they hadn’t started their holiday shopping yet, compared with 19 percent last year. And a smaller share of people have finished their holiday shopping. This year, just 9 percent of shoppers have done so, compared with 11 percent last year.

 

November 27 at 3:53 PM

The Washington Post

Photo:Byron Siekavizza wheels his television to his car as he gets a jump-start on shopping for deals at Best Buy on Thanksgiving in Alexandria. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

Higher Wages And Easy Credit Likely To Spur Holiday Sales, Retailers Say

Rising wages and cheap loans are setting the stage for a strong holiday season, according to retailers, consultants and pollsters.

On Tuesday, the National Retail Federation predicted a 3.6-percent increase in holiday sales, compared with 2015. That’s considerably better than the 10-year average gain of 2.5 percent for the holiday period.

Why the optimism? “People have more money in their pocket and an expanded use of credit,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said on a conference call with reporters.

The industry trade group expects sales to hit $655.8 billion, up from $626.1 billion last year. Kleinhenz says consumers are being buoyed by low unemployment, rising income and low interest rates.

Other studies, done by consulting firms such as Kantar Retail, Deloitte and theInternational Council of Shopping Centers, all forecast holiday spending growth of 3.2 percent to 4 percent.

The projections reflect not only easy credit and improving incomes, but also rising confidence. Last week, the University of Michigan raised its September Index of Consumer Sentiment to 91.8, a 4.6 percent increase over last year. In its latest report, the Conference Board said consumer confidence has reached its highest levels since August 2007.

Still, things can go wrong, as they did last year. NRF says unusually warm weather in much of the country in December 2015 caused seasonal sales to come in $4.4 billion below expectations.

And this year, there could be another big “unknown” that disturbs consumer confidence. When asked if surprising election results might shake holiday spending, Kleinhenz downplayed the threat, saying the economy “is a big aircraft carrier, it’s not going to turn on a dime.”

But retail analysts say one thing is certain: more shopping will be done online. The NRF forecasts a 7 percent to 10 percent increase in sales occurring outside of stores, such as online purchases. Other consultants predict even higher upticks in online sales, some as high as 17 to 19 percent.

College student Tony Fitzgerald, who was shopping for clothes in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, says he shares the sense of rising optimism as the economy improves. “I definitely plan on spending more this year than last year,” he said. “It just feels right.”

Christmas Sales Are Expected to Be Strong This Year

Retail sales should jump a solid 3.6% this year

Finally.

U.S. retailers can expect a strong holiday season this year, buoyed by income gains and rising consumer confidence according to the National Retail Federation.

The industry group forecast holiday season sales—excluding car sales, gas and restaurants—would rise 3.6% to $655.8 billion, well above the 10-year clip of 2.5% growth and better than the 3% rise for the 2015 Christmas period. And online business should be a big help, rising as much as 10% during the period.

The holiday season is crucial for many retailers, making or breaking the year for some chains and generating as much as 30% of sales.

2016 has proven to be a challenging year so far,particularly for stores like Macy’s, M 0.77% Kohl’s KSS 0.91% and Target TGT -0.04% , which had to deal with sales declines last quarter. Shoppers are moving online and also away from apparel, making it tough going for many such chains. A notable exception has been Walmart WMT -0.36% , which has fared well thanks to improved customer service, fewer out-of-stock items, and an improved e-commerce site.

And as Walmart and Amazon.com AMZN -0.32% have shown so far this year, retailers will engage in pricing warfare to outdo one another: Target for one has said it needs to re-emphasize its low prices in its marketing given the competitive environment. And weak traffic at hundreds of malls is hurting the like of Macy’s and Gap Inc GPS -0.18% .

But at least shoppers are in a better mood heading into the holiday season. “Consumers have seen steady job and income gains throughout the year, resulting in continued confidence and the greater use of credit, which bodes well for more spending throughout the holiday season,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement, adding that anxiety about the outcome of the election could weigh on shoppers’ mood.

And once again, retailers will have to fight extra hard with Amazon to give shoppers a reason to come to stores, or at least to their websites. Last year was the first year more shoppers went online on Black Friday than to stores. This year eMarketer expects digital sales to surpass 10% of total holiday season revenue for the first time, while a recent study found that nearly half of all online shopping searches begin on Amazon.

In a separate forecast, PwC estimated holiday spending would increase 10% during the 2016 season, though stores would struggle to get their share since shoppers will be spending proportionately more on experiences and travel.

a OCTOBER 4, 2016,

Holiday sales to rise 3.6 percent this winter: NRF

A more confident group of consumers are expected to loosen their purse strings this holiday, and are seen sparking an acceleration in retail sales growth over last year.

The National Retail Federation on Tuesday said it expects retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants to rise 3.6 percent in November and December, to $655.8 billion. That would mark an acceleration over last year’s 3 percent increase, and would easily top the 10-year average of 2.5 percent growth.

The trade organization’s forecast, considered the industry benchmark, is based on an economic model that factors in consumer credit, monthly retail sales and personal income.

NRF anticipates non-store sales, which skew toward digital, will increase between 7 percent and 10 percent, to as much as $117 billion.

“We have a lot more people working this year,” Jack Kleinhenz, NRF’s chief economist, told reporters.

When factoring in other indicators like wage growth and higher home prices, “our general sense of the economy is that we’re in better shape than we were last year,” Kleinhenz said.

Source: NRF

Retailers got off to a rocky start in 2016, as last winter’s unseasonably warm temperatures left their shelves stocked with coats and scarves. Stores were forced to aggressively discount these items to make way for spring goods, cutting into their margins. Retailers have finally gotten their inventory levels in check, boding well for their profitability this season.

Yet even as more Americans are working and receiving slightly higher paychecks, they’ve been reluctant to spend on traditional retail goods — namely apparel. Broad-based discounting has also cut into retailers’ top lines, requiring them to sell more items to record a gain.

And weather once again took a toll on sales in August and September, thanks to a warm back-to-school and early fall selling season. High temperatures dented apparel specialty stores’ revenue by $393 million during those two months as compared with the prior year, according to new research by Planalytics.

More broadly speaking, data from the Commerce Department shows that retail sales in August slipped on a monthly basis for the first time since March.

Despite the slowdown, Planalytics predicts temperatures on the densely populated East Coast will be more in line with typical years this holiday, which should help spur demand for cold-weather categories. And while some holiday purchases may be pushed back because of the election, the trade organization said it does not anticipate political uncertainty to dent sales.

“This year has not been perfect,” NRF President Matthew Shay conceded. “Overall we think this is a realistic number and very reflective of the current environment.”

Like NRF, separate forecasts from Deloitte, AlixPartners, the International Council of Shopping Centers and RetailNext are all calling for growth between 3.2 percent and 4 percent. PwC expects a more robust 10 percent lift in spending; unlike the other predictions, its forecast includes spending on restaurants and travel.

Retail sales excluding automobiles and parts rose 2.8 percent through August, according to the Commerce Department.

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CNBC