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Retail Sales Inch up in April Despite Poor Quarterly Reports

Despite the dismal Q1 news coming from most retailers, U.S. retail sales still saw growth in April.

Retail sales increased 3 percent in April over last year to $453.4 billion, well over March’s 13-month low 0.5% growth, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Sales at clothing and accessories stores were up a touch over last year to $20.5 billion, and department stores saw sales up 0.4% to $52.6 billion. The true bright spot, however, was e-commerce. Sales at non-store retailers were up 10.2% year-over-year, pointing to what has been an increasing trend toward buying online.

Easter falling in March also helped April sales as retailers were open one day more in the month.

“Overall, April showed signs of strength in that downward trends in sales and traffic were flattened out a bit,” RetailNext VP of retail consulting Shelley E. Kohan told Retail Dive. “Positive signs in April included strong ATV [average transaction value] and sales per shopper, most likely the result of new spring merchandise and a merchandising refresh.”

Consumers are hungry for new and many aren’t finding it with traditional retailers and in stores where associates lack the level of knowledge that could be found much more easily online.

Retailers that don’t realize that, and don’t make an effort to cater to consumers with more appealing product and experiences, are going to lose out to competitors that have figured this out.

“Sameness” will be a big problem for apparel retailers who are now competing with smaller retailers (often without physical stores) that are catering to the need for niche.

“Going forward, collaborate marketplaces and the sharing economy will continue to challenge the traditional retail model,” Kohan told Retail Dive. “There’s not a lot of product differentiation out there, and there are too few retailers deploying innovative strategies like exclusive collaborations with designers to break free from the pack. I see this as a problem that will continue to become more and more of an issue.”