x

Economy

US Retail Sales Plunged a Record 16% in April as Covid-19 Hit

BALTIMORE  — U.S. retail sales tumbled by a record 16.4% from March to April as business shutdowns caused by the coronavirus kept shoppers away, threatened stores across the country and weighed down a sinking economy.

The Commerce Department's report Friday on retail purchases showed a sector that has collapsed so quickly that sales over the past 12 months are down a crippling 21.6%.

The sharpest drops from March to April were at clothiers, electronics stores, furniture stores and restaurants. A long-standing migration of consumers toward online purchases is accelerating, with that segment posting a 8.4% monthly gain. Measured year over year, online sales surged 21.6%.

For a retail sector already reeling from the migration of consumers to online shopping and to app-based delivery services, a back-to-back free-fall in spending poses a grave risk. Department stores like Neiman Marcus and J.Crew have filed for bankruptcy protection. Hotels, restaurants and auto dealerships are in danger.

An April analysis by a group of academic economists found that a one-month closure could wipe out 31% of non-grocer retailers. A four-month closure could force 65% to close.

The plunge in retail spending is a key reason why the U.S. economy is contracting. Purchases at retailers are a major component of overall consumer spending, which fuels about 70% of economic growth.

With few Americans shopping, traveling, eating out or otherwise spending normally, economists are projecting that the gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic activity — is shrinking in the April-June quarter at a roughly 40% annual rate. That would be the deepest quarterly drop on record.

Spending tracked by Opportunity Insights suggests that consumer spending might have bottomed out around mid-April before beginning to tick up slightly, at least in the clothing and general merchandise categories. But spending on transportation, restaurants, hotels and arts and entertainment remains severely depressed.

Credit card purchases tracked by JPMorgan Chase found that spending on such necessities as groceries, fuel, phone service and auto repair declined 20% on a year-over-year basis. By contrast, spending on "non-essentials," such as meals out, airfare and personal services like salons or yoga classes, plummeted by a much worse 50%.

RELATED

WASHINGTON — The US economy grew last year at the fastest pace since Ronald Reagan's presidency, bouncing back with resilience from 2020's brief but devastating coronavirus recession.

Top Stories

Associations

ASTORIA – The Pancyprian Choir of NY held its first meeting of 2022 and shared best wishes for the New Year with their annual cutting of the traditional vasilopita at Dionysos Taverna in Astoria on January 24.

Associations

BRONX, NY – In a festive atmosphere, the traditional cutting of the vasilopita was held by the Northern Chios Society of Pelineon Agia Markella in the community hall of Zoodohos Peghe Greek Orthodox Church in the Bronx on January 23.

Society

ATHENS – A major snow storm that had been predicted for days still caught residents in Greece offguard and the New Democracy government scrambling for answers as to why motorists were stuck for hours on major roads.

Video

Democrats Eye Supreme Court Pick to Revive 2022 Prospects

Democrats stung by a series of election year failures to deliver legislative wins for their most loyal voters hope they'll be buoyed by the prospect that President Joe Biden will name the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.