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You're not buying like you were last year

A lone customer enters a Gap store

KAI RYSSDAL: I'm sorry to have pointed the finger right at you, but the retail sales numbers out today were some of the worst ever.Taken together, major retailers reported a 2.3 percent decline in same-store sales over last year. Wal-Mart, as I mentioned, reported its worst drop on record — 3.5 percent.

Ashley Milne-Tyte reports now on gas prices and the rest of the usual suspects.


ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: April showers and chilly temperatures in some parts of the country dampened shoppers' zeal.

TNS Retail Forward economist Frank Badillo says this April looks especially bad, because sales a year ago were so strong. But because Easter came in March this year, many shoppers hit the malls then. Still, he says, the news isn't bad across the board.

FRANK BADILLO: Some of these retailers that serve upper-income households, they continue to do well. Because those are the households that are continuing to benefit from the job and income gains in the economy.

Whereas, he says, Wal-Mart shoppers are hurt by high gas prices.

But retail analyst Brad Stephens of Morgan Keegan doesn't buy the gas price theory. He says the chain's focus on apparel just isn't working.

BRAD STEPHENS: When you walk into a Target, you see a very clean, very organized presentation. In Wal-Mart, it looks like sometimes it's been shot out of a shotgun.

That said, Target saw April sales drop, too. Stephens says if May turns out to be a shopping washout, retailers stocks will take a hit.

In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

About the author

Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast about women in the workplace called The Broad Experience.

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