Pessimists win: March retail sales drop 1.1 percent

Retail sales went south in March. (bookgrl/FLICKR)
Retail sales went south in March. (bookgrl/FLICKR)


The latest news from the Department of Commerce is a mix of the bad and the good.

The bad: March threw a wrench in what some had hoped was a sign of a consumer upswing — retail sales across the board fell 1.1 percent compared with February and fell 9.4 percent from the same year-earlier period.

Department store sales were among the losers. Sales fell 0.3 percent compared with February,  and the sector chalked up a 6 percent drop compared with the year-earlier period.

Electronic and appliance retailer sales were off 6.2 percent from February and 10 percent compared with last March.

Auto and parts dealers felt the pain of a 2.4 percent drop in sales compared with February and are  weathering a painful 31 percent drop compared with sales in March 2008.

For those seeking some good news, the Commerce Department revised  numbers for February and found retail sales went up 0.3 percent, instead of down 0.1 percent.

The Wall Street Journal’s coverage highlights some trends that could counter retail’s shadow, including Wells Fargo & Co.’s positive first quarter results and a drop in the February trade deficit reported last week. But it wasn’t just that exports increased, but that imports decreased, taken as more a sign of reduced spending , according to the New York Times.

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