Everyone knew that April’s sales numbers were going to be lower than March. The early Easter holiday this year bumped up sales in March by as much as 5% while depressing business by the same amount in April. However, the results came in weaker than expected, with many retailers missing Wall Street estimates, according to Thomson Reuters. Analysts are studying the combined March and April receipts to get a better gauge of consumer spending. Cooler weather last month also played a hand in depressing sales of seasonal goods . Still, despite these disappointments, the results marked the eighth consecutive month that retailers logged same-store sales increases. However, to put this in perspective: Retailers would have to post 13 months of double-digit same-store sales gains in order to get back to the level of sales they reported at the industry’s height in 2008.
A recent consumer survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets showed consumers are beginning to shed their anxiety about the economy. However, despite their growing optimism, their actions are showing continued reserve.
For example, the majority of consumers said they are planning to forgo expensive vacations this summer. Some 63% of those surveyed said they would stay at home on “stay-cation” or drive somewhere for a vacation (59%).
“The economy is getting better—slowly, but surely—but you’re not seeing people running to their banks to take out huge amounts of loans to buy everything and anything,” said Marc Harris, co-head of Global Research at RBC Capital Markets. “Money isn’t flowing out of their pockets. It’s still a tough time for a lot of people.”
On a positive note, the month ended what’s expected to be a decent first quarter for many retailers. A number of merchants, including Target Corp., Gap Inc., J.C. Penney Co. and Macy’s Inc. all raised their earnings outlook amid encouraging signs that they didn’t have to discount aggressively because shoppers were buying full-priced merchandise.