Retail sales soften but indicate step in 'right direction'

WASHINGTON — U.S. retail sales slowed during the month of April, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

U.S. retail and food services sales for the month, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $408 billion, an increase of 0.1% from the previous month and 6.4% above the year-ago period. Retail trade sales were up 0.1% from last month and 6.1% above last year.

Looking across retail categories, adjusted sales at grocery stores during the month of April increased about 0.5% to roughly $47.3 billion. Health and personal care stores saw a slight decline to nearly $23.3 billion. Retail sales for drug stores and pharmacies were not recorded; however, sales experienced a slight drop from February to March (about $19.2 billion).

Commenting on the results, the National Retail Federation said while sales softened in April, it also marked 22 consecutive months of retail sales growth.

"Though consumer spending softened in April, retailers overall have seen solid sales growth so far this spring, a positive indicator we're heading in the right direction," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. "With 22 straight months of sustained retail sales growth, retailers are optimistic as they gear up for the all-important summer shopping season."

Added NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz, "The expected shortfall in April retail sales reflects the seasonal shift in consumer spending at this time each year. With Easter a full 20 days earlier this year and unseasonably warm weather, consumers started spending as early as February and March on everything from spring apparel to newly-released electronic items."

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