The U.S. Bureau of the Census reported that seasonally adjusted real retail and food service sales were up slightly (+0.2%) at $194.5 billion in April. (Note that actual sales are deflated using CPI 1982 – 1984 = 100). April sales were 2.2% higher than the prior-year period.
Nominal (unadjusted for inflation) seasonally-adjusted retail sales totaled $474.9 billion in April (second graph), also up slightly (+0.4%) from prior month, and up 4.5% from prior year results. Total nominal sales were up 3.3% for the full year 2016.
The results were below consensus expectations but March was revised upward. Nominal retail and food services sales excluding gasoline were up 0.4% year-over-year. Nonstore retailer sales (e-commerce and mail order) were up 11.9%. Gasoline station sales were up 12.3% year-over-year, a reversal from most of 2016 when full-year sales were down 6.3%. Department stores sales fell by 3.7% year-over-year, while sporting goods, hobby and book store sales fell by 2.4%. We focus primarily on real retail sales because they are a better indicator of freight volumes than the inflated figures.