March furniture sales help boost NRF’s claim of strong retail year

analytical report

Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores were up 1.7 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the latest economic report indicating the economy is gaining steam after a soft start to the year.

Overall retail sales were up 1 percent last month seasonally adjusted from February and up 0.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year, according to the National Retail Federation. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

The latest numbers support the NRF’s belief that retail sales will increase between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent this year to more than $3.8 trillion despite threats from an ongoing trade war, the volatile stock market and the effects of the government shutdown.

“These numbers boost first-quarter performance and suggest a strong consumer,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “It is clear that underlying consumer fundamentals including job and wage growth and healthy household balance sheets continue to support spending. Consumers were busy in March after weaker-than-expected spending earlier.”

Kleinhenz said the numbers could have been better if not for cold weather early in March and changes in the timing of two key religious holidays. The change of seasons is always a factor because of the weather, and a later Easter and Passover this year meant holiday-related sales that took place in March last year won’t come until this month, he said. That will “sizably impact year-over-year comparisons,” said Kleinhenz.

As of March, the three-month moving average was up 2.6 percent over the same period a year ago. March’s results make up for a revised monthly loss of 0.8 percent seen in February and build on February’s year-over-year gain of 2.5 percent.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said last week that overall March sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were up 1.6 percent seasonally adjusted from February and up 3.6 unadjusted year-over-year. The release of retail sales data for December through March has been delayed as the Bureau works through a backlog caused by the government shutdown earlier this year.