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Inflation Ignored: April Retail Sales Inch Up Despite Rising Prices

Shopping data shows consumers didn’t let inflation slow them down.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday said retail sales rose 0.9 percent to $677.71 billion in April from March, for an 8.2 percent improvement from April last year. Retail trade sales rose 0.7 percent from last month, and 6.7 percent from a year ago.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales at department stores rose 1 percent to $11.51 billion from $11.39 billion in March. Sales at apparel and accessories stores also rose 1 percent to $26.20 billion from $26.00 billion. Online sales grew 2 percent to $106.77 billion from $104.53 billion. In addition, sales at furniture and home furnishings stores were up 1 percent to $12.17 billion from $12.09 billion.

“April retail sales demonstrate consumer strength and willingness to spend despite persistent inflation, supply chain constraints, market volatility and global unrest,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said.

Consumers are finding ways to shop smart as they face higher prices, and even though retailers increased costs, they “remained committed to their customers and are doing everything they can to absorb these costs to keep products affordable,” Shay said.

According to Naveen Jaggi, president at Retail Advisory Services for JLL, clothing chains saw year-over-year sales gains as “consumers continue to return to the office and need to refresh their wardrobes along with summer apparel purchases.”

Jaggi expects retail sales to continue to rise next month as warmer weather lures people outdoors and encourages spending on restaurants, concerts, travel and other experiences, which could slow down fashion purchases.

NRF projected last month that U.S. consumer spending could drive 6 percent to 8 percent retail sales growth for 2022, or $4.86 trillion to $4.95 trillion. The retail trade group, which recognizes inflation as a headwind, remains upbeat on its sales projection for 2022.