March retail sales see worst drop on record

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Toward the end of a Store Brands report on how retailers and manufacturers have been managing the supply chain during the coronavirus pandemic — such as battling consumer panic buys and other challenges — Greg Buzek, founder and president of IHLGroup, a forecaster and supply chain analyst, commented that what makes the pandemic so different than other situations a supply chain may have faced previously, such as a regional natural disaster, is how its impact can be seen nationwide and globally, and dividing industries into veritable haves and have nots.  

“The guys who have been doing well and growing and expanding, those guys just got rocket fuel,” Buzek said in the article. “And the guys who were not doing well, and those sectors there, they got blown up, literally ran into a complete wall.”

March sales fell 8.7%, year over year, biggest decline since 4.3% in November 2018.

In retail, the obvious sectors doing well include grocery retailers such as Kroger, reporting a 30% increase in March, and those struggling are less essential retailers like an electronics retailer (Best Buy just had to furlough 51,000 employees).

The U.S. Census Bureau furthered this truth with its look at total retail sales in March. The report said sales were down overall by nearly 9%, year over year, a step worse than the 6.2% drop reported in February, year over year. March’s monthly hit is the largest decline the country’s seen since November 2008.

One of the areas seeing a positive gain, grocery retailers, up 25.6% for the month, per the report.

Categories seeing the biggest dives include apparel retailers (-50.6%), furniture (-26.8%) and sporting goods stores (-23.3%).

For more on the latest sales numbers in March, read the complete article at sister publication Retail Leader.