March was a huge month at the cash register according to both the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the U.S. Census Bureau.
The double-whammy of an increased vaccine rollout and a new round of economic stimulus checks have translated into big year-over-year retail sales gains as comps start to run up against last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns. According to the NRF, sales grew 17.7% over last year while the U.S. Census Bureau — which uses different methodology — reports a massive 27.7% spike.
“The dramatic increase of 17.7% in March retail sales over the same period last year confirms that a confident consumer is driving the economic rebound, and that should continue through the remainder of 2021,” says NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “American households are clearly feeling the full effect of additional fiscal stimulus, gains in the job market, and the reopening of the economy. Although there have been some recent issues related to vaccines, consumer confidence remains high and an optimistic outlook for the future continues to grow. Retailers remain committed, transparent, and emphatic about prioritizing customer and employee safety as they welcome shoppers back into their stores this spring.”
Thus far, most retail categories are showing gains for the year except for one big one: groceries. The decline in that area can be attributed to the pandemic-fueled stock-up that occurred last spring.
Overall, the NRF believes that 2021 retail sales should spike between 6.5% and 8.2% this year.
First-quarter toy industry sales numbers are expected to be released by The NPD Group by the end of the month.