March Retail Sales Bounce Back

March sales at fashion retailers showed continued improvement over February — and were a night and day difference from a year ago, when the coronavirus first sent shoppers into lockdown.

 Apparel and accessories specialty stores drove seasonally adjusted sales up 18.3 percent from February and saw a mammoth 101 percent increase over a  year ago, according to the Commerce Department’s monthly reading. Department stores were up 13 percent from a month ago and up 25.6 percent from March 2019.

Fashion’s brick and mortar crowd managed to pace the non-store retailers, a category that is dominated by e-commerce sites and logged a 6 percent increase in sales from February and a 25.6 percent year-over-year jump.

But it’s not as simple as brick and mortar fighting back after an intense year when consumers leaned into e-commerce as they stayed home. The official figures tally sales by distribution and not by company and the big retail operations all have both store and e-commerce operations and are working to make sure they work together more than ever.  For instance, many retailers raced to implement buy online, pick up in store programs during the pandemic and are now doubling down on that functionality as consumers have taken to the process. 

Overall retail sales rose 9.8 percent from February — better than the 5.5 percent gain economists predicted on average. Compared with a year earlier, sales shot up 27.7 percent.

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