MasterCard Advisors: Sales mixed in April

NEW YORK -- Luxury, e-commerce and apparel enjoyed strong growth in April and the restaurant category surpassed last month’s gains, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, a macroeconomic report tracking national retail and services sales. Electronics and appliance sales registered declines.

“Overall, retail sectors were mixed this month,” said Michael McNamara, VP, research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. “Several sectors showed continued year-over-year growth, while others were flat or even negative.”

According to McNamara, the shift in the Easter holiday between this year and last may have helped some of the comparisons, especially for apparel, groceries, flowers, and drug stores.

“On the other hand, unusually stormy weather in the South and Midwest may have cut down on shopping trips, and may have worked against particular sectors such as hardware,” he said.

Rising gas prices can have a variety of repercussions for retail, according to McNamara.

“First, we can expect consumers to make fewer shopping trips, especially on weekends, and this may contribute to an ever stronger growth for e-commerce,” he said. “Fewer miles driven also reduces demand for auto parts and services. Finally, casual dining restaurants can be negatively impacted.”

Here are sector results:

Total U.S. apparel sales rose 10.4% in April for their ninth consecutive year-over-year gain. Some of this performance can be attributed to this year’s Easter pre-holiday sales happening throughout April (last year the holiday was in March).

Family apparel came in at 10.6%, posting the eleventh straight positive year-over-year growth rate. Menswear weighed in at 12.4%, showing six straight months of positive growth. Women’s apparel was up 7.4%, its seventh straight month of growth.

E-commerce had its highest single month of year-over-year growth since July 2007, and the highest dollar levels spent for any April in SpendingPulse history, rising 19.2%, the category’s sixth straight month of double-digit growth and twenty-first straight month in positive territory.

For the third time in the last four months electronics and appliances registered a decline, down 1.8% year-over-year. This is the largest March-to-April sales decrease since April 2006.

In its seventh month of year-over-year gains, the SpendingPulse Luxury Index (excluding jewelry) was up 9.6%, the sector’s largest gain since May 2010. The SpendingPulse Luxury category measures luxury sales at high-end restaurants, food stores, department stores and general apparel categories.