Easter delivers record March sales boost for US retailers

City A.M. Reporter
Top US retail chains yesterday posted record rises in monthly same-store sales in March, helped by an early Easter holiday and an improving job market, in the strongest sign yet of revived consumer demand.

Sales at stores open at least a year rose 9.1 per cent in March, the largest monthly jump since Thomson Reuters began tracking results in 2000 and ahead of Wall Street estimates of a 6.3 per cent increase. More than 90 per cent of 28 retailers tracked beat expectations.

Executives at retailers from department store operator Macy’s to discounter Target warned that the huge jump in March would come at the expense of April sales.

But analysts and economists took a brighter view of the two-month period, saying underlying consumer spending was accelerating.

“Even if you take out Easter, you still saw a better month this month than you did in February and January,” said Doug Conn, credit analyst and managing director at Hexagon Securities. “There’s something going on besides Easter, in other words.”

Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centres, said same-store sales rose nine per cent in March, and he predicted April would be between flat to down three per cent.