Retail sales rose slightly in March

Person pulls debit or credit card from wallet.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The latest budget discussions come on the day we found out from the government that Americans spent more money in March. For the ninth month in a row. The increase was slight, and driven mostly by gasoline sales.

Marshall Cohen is a retail analyst with the NPD Group and he's with us live from just outside of New York City. Good morning.

COHEN: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: So retail sales ticked up slightly from last month. What's your take on these numbers?

COHEN: It's actually good news. You know, this year, March, compared to last year does not have Easter in it, so many of the retailers were going to use the fact that Easter was coming later this year and the weather was very late in coming for the spring transition. So that really shows that the consumer actually came out despite the latter part of the holiday season and the bad weather.

CHIOTAKIS: So they would've used that as an excuse right? "Ah, Easter comes in April this year."

COHEN: Right. You know Easter's coming a little bit later and it does make a difference. We don't all go out and buy Easter bonnets. We do think about transitioning our wardrobes, start thinking about doing some landscape work, and it does start to really propel the consumer to buying into the next season.

CHIOTAKIS: You know, Marshall the Commerce Department said gasoline sales made up the vast majority of the gain. Otherwise it was pretty much a wash. Gas prices are high, how do we know people aren't just going to quit spending?

COHEN: Well so far we've seen a little bit of a different reaction to the higher priced gas. it seems like the consumer is starting to get used to this. You know the boy who cried wolf. We keep getting to a point where the consumer is saying, "All right, I'm going to stop spending, and I'm going to stop driving as much, but there are only slowing back a little bit. And then after a few weeks they get used to that number of you know, whatever the gas price is. We saw this at $3 a gallon and we're going to see this again at $4 a gallon. When shortly there after, we get used to the price, we adjust some of our spending, and that $10 a week on average that comes out of pocket is not going to sway or change our lifestyles all that much. We find ways to get used to it, and we continue to spend.

CHIOTAKIS: Marshall Cohen from the NPD Group. Marshall thanks.

COHEN: Pleasure.

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