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US Retail Sales See Record Decline

March slowdown worse than during November 2008 recession, NRF says.
Apr 16, 2020 7:23 AM   By Rapaport News
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RAPAPORT... US retail sales saw the largest monthly drop ever recorded, as stores were ordered to shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total purchases fell 6% year on year in March, and 9% compared to February, according to data the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported. The slowdown was even steeper than the 4.3% decline in November 2008, during the Great Recession. NRF based these numbers on official data from the US Census Bureau.

“These numbers should come as no surprise given the mandated shutdown of our economy to slow the spread of the virus,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said Wednesday.

The Census Bureau’s jewelry sales data for February was unavailable, as many businesses have closed and were unable to answer survey questions, it noted. The figures usually lag behind total retail sales data by a month.

During the shutdown, the government has set up the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides assistance to retailers that have temporarily closed. It includes a $350 billion paycheck-protection program for businesses with under 500 employees, and $500 billion for larger retail companies. The program also extends unemployment insurance for retail workers, and offers tax relief and one-time payments for unemployed workers.

Although the decline in March was the worst on record, the NRF believes it will likely fall even further in the coming months.

“March was a month that started out with many stores still open, but far more are closed now,” Kleinhenz stressed. “Don’t be surprised if the data going forward shows a worsening situation. Even if the economy begins to reopen in May, consumer behavior may take a long time to adjust. The road to recovery could be long and slow.”

Image: An empty shopping mall in New Jersey. (Shutterstock)
Tags: CARES, COVID-19, Great Recession, Jack Kleinhenz, National Retail Federation, NRF, Rapaport News, target, US Census Bureau, US retail sales, Walmart
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