Retail sales plummet in March

“Retail sales plummeted [in March] as the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns reverberate through the economy,” said NAFCU Chief Economist and Vice President of Research Curt Long in a new NAFCU Macro Data Flash report. Total retail sales dropped 8.7 percent during the month, following February’s 0.4 percent fall.

“The more discretionary the category, the greater the fall in sales,” Long noted. “Nonstore retailers are up 3.1 percent, which include online merchants such as Amazon, who has hired tens of thousands more workers to meet demand. It is yet to be seen how many of the small businesses and restaurants recover from the crisis, and when.

“NAFCU expects worse numbers over the next several months due to more extensive shutdowns and social distancing nationwide, followed by a slow recovery,” he concluded.

Year-over-year retail sales were down 5.9 percent in March; February’s year-over-year sales saw a 4.9 percent increase. Control group sales, which excludes the auto, gas, and building materials categories, were down 3.5 in March and saw a 0.2 percent drop from a year ago.


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