Operations

Retail sales were ‘virtually unchanged’ in April and inflation cooled

Sales were flat last month, as general merchandise, furniture, and non-store sales all declined.
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Retailers got a quick one-two punch of good and bad news this morning with the release of both monthly retail sales numbers and the consumer price index.

First, retail sales were “virtually unchanged” in April, as categories including general merchandise (-0.3%), furniture and home goods (-0.5%), and sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores (-0.9%) all saw declines from March.

The biggest drop came from a category that has generally performed well over the last 12 months: Nonstore sales were down 1.2%, even as they rose 7.5% from last year.

  • For contrast, a recent report from Adobe Analytics found that e-commerce spending increased 7% year over year in the first four months of 2024.

Two of the biggest sales bumps, meanwhile, came from electronics and appliance stores and clothing and apparel stores, which were up 1.5% and 1.6% respectively.

As for inflation, the consumer price index increased at the slowest pace in three months, rising 0.3% in April, down from a 0.4% increase in March.

While the price of shelter and gasoline rose, several categories experienced deflation, including used cars and trucks and household furnishings. Food-at-home prices notably dropped 0.2% after months of increasing or staying flat.

The moderation is stoking hopes that the Federal Reserve could soon cut rates—a prospect that retailers such as Home Depot are also anticipating, as CFO Richard McPhail noted on a recent earnings call.

“The moderation in CPI in April is welcomed after a string of elevated readings in Q1 and keeps alive the prospect of the Fed starting to cut rates in September,” Nationwide Chief Economist Kathy Bostjancic wrote in a note titled “Welcomed moderation in CPI and weak retail sales.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.