U.S. Retail Sales Plunge By Record 16.4% In April

Retail sales in the U.S. plunged by even more than expected in the month of April, according to a report released by the Commerce Department on Friday.

The Commerce Department said retail sales cratered by a record 16.4 percent in April after tumbling by a revised 8.3 percent in March.

Economists had expected retail sales to plummet by 12.0 percent compared to the 8.7 percent slump originally reported for the previous month.

Excluding sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, retail sales plunged by an even steeper 17.2 percent in April after falling by a revised 4.0 percent in March.

Ex-auto sales were expected to tumble by 8.6 percent compared to the 4.5 percent nosedive originally reported for the previous month.

The collapse in retail sales reflected weakness throughout most of the sector, as the coronavirus pandemic forced most stores to close their doors.

The report showed particularly steep drops in sales by clothing and accessories stores, electronics and appliance stores and furnishing and home furnishing stores.

Even sales at grocery stores plummeted by 13.2 percent in April after spiking by 28.6 percent in the previous month.

The only segment to see an increase in sales was non-store retailers, where sales jumped 8.4 percent as consumers resorted to online shopping amid the lockdown.

Core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline, building materials and food services, plunged by 15.3 percent in April after a surprise 3.1 percent jump in March. Economists had expected core sales to drop by about 5.0 percent.

“While we believe the worst of the consumer retrenchment is likely behind us, the gradual relaxation of lockdowns and lingering virus fear will translate into a slow release of purse strings,” said a note from economists at Oxford Economics.

They added, “In addition, the combination of elevated unemployment, depressed income, frail consumer confidence will continue to weigh on consumer’s appetite for spending.”

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