PURCHASE, N.Y. — After several months of sluggish retail sales, consumer shopping in the United States rebounded in April, according to the latest MasterCard SpendingPulse report, which aggregates national retail sales activity in the MasterCard payments network, coupled with estimates for all other payment forms, including cash and check.
Total U.S. retail sales grew 4.4% year-over-year, a significant comeback from the 2.2% growth in March, and the strongest growth since December of last year. The recovery extended broadly across every retail industry sector tracked by SpendingPulse.
“Improving weather, lower gas prices and a calendar shift for Easter from March of last year to April this year, all had impacts on retail sales growth, according to MasterCard's analysis,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior VP market insights, MasterCard Advisors. "The bulk of April's gains seems to have come from a particularly strong shopping run in the week leading up to Easter, with momentum cooling quickly in the last week of the month.”
The long-term outlook may still be cautious, but retailers across the board had a big win in April. Most notably, the apparel category, which has seen sales decline for several consecutive months, had the highest growth in April since January 2013. Specialty and family apparel were particularly hot items. Other big category winners were lodging and grocery, which both grew nearly 10% in April.
"April's gains do not make up for last quarter's sluggishness, when year-to-year growth rates slipped for three consecutive months," said Quinlan. "But we've been saying that warmer weather would bring improved sales, and with April's spring temperatures, every industry sector seems to have shrugged off the weakness of earlier this year and made a strong comeback."