In the US, essential retail segments recorded a rise in March 2020, while non-essential segments witnessed a sharp decline. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), US retail’s road to recovery could be long and slow owing to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
Grocery and beverage stores were up 25.6% month-over-month. Health and personal care stores were up 4.3% month-over-month. General merchandise stores were up 6.4% month-over-month, while online and other non-store sales were up 3.1% month-over-month.
On the other hand, clothing stores saw the biggest decline among categories counted by both NRF and the US Census Bureau, with sales down 50.5% from February 2020, while furniture store sales were down 26.8% and sporting goods stores were down 23.3%. Electronics and appliance stores were down 15.1% month-over-month.
Overall, retail sales saw the biggest monthly drop on record during March as the coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants and many stores to temporarily close across the nation.
“COVID-19 has hit the retail industry unevenly. This is a market of haves and have-nots. The haves are the stores that remain open with lines out the doors to buy daily necessities while the have-nots are the stores that have closed and are taking the brunt of the impact of the pandemic. These numbers should come as no surprise given the mandated shutdown of our economy to slow the spread of the virus,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist, NRF. “March was a month that started out with many stores still open, but far more are closed now. Don’t be surprised if the data going forward shows a worsening situation. Even if the economy begins to reopen in May, consumer behaviour may take a long time to adjust. The road to recovery could be long and slow.”
According to the US Census Bureau, overall retail sales during March 2020 were down 8.7% seasonally adjusted from February and down 6.2% unadjusted year-over-year. The monthly drop is the largest ever recorded, exceeding a 4.3% decline in November 2008 during the Great Recession.