Retail sales down in March

Retail sales declined 0.4 percent in March 2013, according to the US Census Bureau's latest nominal read of retail sales.

SoldAtTheTop
Retail sales including home furnishings, home garden and building materials, consumer electronics and department store sales declined 0.42 percent in March 2013 and slipped 0.64 percent below the level seen in March 2012.
SoldAtTheTop
Chart 1
SoldAtTheTop
Chart 2

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest nominal read of retail sales showing a decline of 0.4% from February, but a gain of 2.8% on a year-over-year basis on an aggregate of all items including food, fuel and healthcare services. 

Nominal "discretionary" retail sales including home furnishings, home garden and building materials, consumer electronics and department store sales declined 0.42% from February and slipped 0.64% below the level seen in March 2012 while, adjusting for inflation, “real” discretionary retail sales declined a notable 2.27% over the same period. 

On a “nominal” basis, there had appeared to be “rough correlation” between strong home value appreciation and strong retail spending preceding the housing bust and an even stronger correlation when home values started to decline. 

Chart 1 shows the year-over-year change to nominal discretionary retail sales and the year-over-year change to nominal the S&P/Case-Shiller Composite home price index since 1993 and since 2000. 

As you can see there is, at the very least, a coincidental change to home values and consumer spending during the boom and then the bust, but as home values have continued to decline, retail spending has remained low but has not continued to consistently contract. 

Looking at chart 2, adjusted for inflation (CPI for retail sales, CPI “less shelter” for S&P/Case-Shiller Composite) the “rough correlation” between the year-over-year change to the “discretionary” retail sales series and the year-over-year S&P/Case-Shiller Composite series seems now even more significant. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.