According to the ICSC-GS consumer tracking survey, business strengthened appreciably at grocery stores and apparel‐specialty stores had a moderate gain, but discounters’ business was markedly softer over the last week.
"The fiscal month of March began on a mixed note with steady results on a year-over-year basis and a solid increase over the prior week," said Michael Niemira, ICSC's vice president of research and chief economist. "The mixed performance was tied to uneven underlying demand - stronger grocery and apparel stores business, but weaker discount business - and another bout of adverse weather in the Midwest."Weather Trends International (WTI) said the average nationwide temperature was 4.0°F colder than last year and 2.2°F colder than its long‐term trend, as much of the country was lashed with winter storms, but noted that Easter apparel demand should benefit from milder weather as March rolls on.
Redbook Research said same-store sales rose 2.7% in the first week of March following a 2.2% gain the prior week. Relative to the first week of February, sales rose 0.6%.
Redbook expects same-store sales to post a 3.3% gain for the full month compared to last March. The company notes there will be an upward bias to March results due to Easter falling 2 weeks earlier this year compared to last year.
Some retailers noted that the first week of March was the smallest week in terms of expected sales volume and is therefore unrepresentative, making it too early to determine the trend of the month as a whole. Despite the slow start to March, retailers are looking particularly for an improvement in seasonal business as warmer weather, St Patrick's Day celebration, Spring Break as well as an early March Easter holiday draw closer.After posting 10 consecutive weekly increases, with a cumulative rise of 53 cents from mid-December to late February, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that the price of gas fell for the second straight week to $3.71 for the week ending 3/11. Gas prices are down 4.9 cents from last week and 7.4 cents below the peak from two weeks ago, and are 3.1% lower than at this point a year ago.
Bloomberg reported last week that consumer confidence rose for a 5th straight week to the the highest level this year, as improving stock and home prices gave households a lift.
"The rise in equity prices continues to bolster consumer confidence despite a number of economic headwinds," said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York." The risk going forward is the lagged impact on confidence and spending due to tax hikes, which will disproportionately burden lower-income groups."The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index improved to -32.4 in the week ended March 3 from -32.8 in the prior week. The gauge of Americans' current view of the U.S. economy fell slightly to -57.0 from -56.9, but remains close to levels not seen since March 2008. Views of personal finances dropped to -0.2 from -0.1, while the buying climate index rose to -40.0 from -41.3.
Confidence among Americans who earn the least is at its highest in about five years. The sentiment gauge for households with incomes less than $15k improved to -41.6, the highest level since December 2007, from -46.9 in the prior period. The measure for households who earn more than $100k slipped to 1.6 from 2.4, but has held above zero for 5 straight weeks.