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Mastercard: Department Stores Gained in Strong April Retail Sales

Americans were out spending in April, and department stores saw a healthy boost as U.S. retail sales overall grew 23.3 percent.

According to data from Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment, retail sales continued to benefit from stimulus payments, combined with warmer weather and a broader reopening across the country.

For April, excluding automotive and gasoline, U.S. retail sales rose 23.3 percent year-over-year for the month of April, versus a 10.8 percent rate of growth when compared to April 2019. In comparison, online sales grew 19.9 percent and 95.6 percent, respectively, for the same periods.

“April’s retail sales growth reinforces that the American consumer is healthy and eager to spend, especially on categories such as restaurants, which have faced restrictions over the past year,” Steve Sadove, Mastercard senior advisor and former CEO of Saks, Inc., said. “There are a lot of factors at play including stimulus funds, pent-up demand, and the desire to reconnect with friends and family. The fact is that people are excited to gather again and they’re refreshing their look for the occasion.”

While April’s data showed that consumers were ready to eat out again— for the second consecutive month of positive growth, spending at restaurants grew 118.8 percent versus 2020 and were up 5.7 percent compared to 2019—they were also ready to spend for new apparel items to add to their closets.

Department stores, a depressed sector last year, garnered a 202.7 percent sales improvement. That rate of growth is due to easy comparisons, since nonessential retailers were temporarily closed a year ago due to state and local government mandates in an effort to curb the rise in Covid-19 infections. When compared with 2019 figures, sales at the department store channel rose 9.6 percent in April.

Online sales continued to grow year-over-year on top of the record rate of growth last year when consumers gravitated to e-commerce sites out of necessity while stores were closed. Mastercard data showed that e-commerce share continued to comprise a bigger portion of total retail spend overall at 21.6 percent. Within the online category, apparel share was 61.7 percent, followed by department stores sales at 21.0 percent and jewelry at 15.7 percent.