Does good weather boost consumer spending?

In the warmest March on record, retail sales beat expectations. But shouldn't the boost have been bigger?

Pat Wellenbach/AP/File
In this March file photo, a shopper carries bags of merchandise in Freeport, Maine. Buoyed by the warm weather, retail sales were stronger than expected in March.

The headlines will all say that Retail Sales numbers for March beat expectations this morning - and technically they did - but in reality, this was the best weather we've ever seen in March across the country and we couldn't even muster a 1% rise.  The data from the Commerce Department just screams lethargic consumer.

That said, the chain-store numbers were a bit brighter as it appears apparel consumers went spring shopping a bit early this year...

From Bloomberg:

Store chain data released earlier were in sync with today’s report. Same-store sales for the more than 20 companies tracked by Swampscott, Massachusetts-based Retail Metrics rose 3.9 percent last month, beating the average estimate for a 3.3 percent gain, as many chains offered discounts and shoppers stocked up early on spring gear.

Sales at Gap, the largest U.S. apparel chain, climbed 8 percent. Target, the second-largest U.S. discount chain, and Macy’s Inc., the owner of Bloomingdale’s and namesake stores, each posted 7.3 percent increased. All three companies beat the average analyst projection.

Sales may have been helped by better weather as demand at building material stores climbed 3 percent, the most this year. The average temperature was 51.1 degrees Fahrenheit (10.6 degrees Celsius) in March, the warmest on record for the month in the past 117 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

How much of April and May retail sales - if any - was pulled forward?

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