Washington, D.C. — Retail sales plummeted 16.4 percent in April, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, the sharp drop “was not a surprise” to the National Retail Federation (NRF) due to the government-mandated shutdown of huge swaths of the American economy starting in mid-March.
“The vast majority of retail stores have been closed, we are in the midst of historic unemployment and when it comes to personal finances, discretionary spending takes a back seat to essentials,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based trade association, stated in a press release.
“Prior to this pandemic, retail was setting records in year-over-year growth, employment and investment. It is a resilient industry serving a smart consumer, and despite today’s report, we know it will be leading our nation’s economic recovery as this crisis recedes,” added Shay.
The monthly report generated by the U.S. Census Bureau is a measure of purchases at stores, gasoline stations, restaurants, bars and online. The double-digit drop in April retail sales follows a revised 8.3 percent drop in March sales.
Total spending in April was $403.9 billion compared with $483.5 billion the prior month, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. One of the biggest factors contributing to the downturn was a 78.8 percent drop in the sales of clothing and accessories. Other retail categories that experienced a sharp downturn in sales included electronics and appliances (-60.6 percent), furniture and home furnishing (-58.7 percent), sporting goods (-38 percent) and bars and restaurants (-29.5 percent).
NRF has advocated for retailers and policies for more than 100 years.