A Walmart Shopper at a Self-Checkout | Source: Walmart

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.”

Related: The U.S. Toy Industry Hits Record Sales Despite Pandemic

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.

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.