People are only shopping for food? ☕️ Fragile situation


In the coronavirus era, new economic data is like looking at the cockroach you whacked with a magazine. It’s unpleasant, but you have to do it just in case. So we’ll deliver yesterday’s March retail sales numbers in the most digestible ways we can think of.
  • Generally, the sector was like a dolphin plunging into the sea—overall sales dropped 8.7% monthly, the biggest dip since the government started keeping track in 1992.  
To break it down, let’s start with the bright spots. March grocery sales bounced almost 27%.
  • Health and personal care stores and general merchandise stores also fared well, growing sales 4.3% and 6.4%, respectively. 

Some economists said grocery’s surge may not last now that we’re all stocked up on kimchi. But grocery has long been considered recession-proof, and with restaurants closed there’s reason to believe demand will stay strong. 

Now for the darker spots

Before we get there, remember that March hit the retail sector with a double whammy: 1) stores shuttered to comply with government orders and 2) layoffs from other industries hurt consumer spending. But again, we’ll try to keep it pleasant. 
  • Clothing sales were like a maple leaf drifting off its bough...halfway to the ground. They dropped 50%. 
  • Furniture/home furnishings and food services/drinking places were like a pair of pelicans diving for fish, both dropping nearly 27%. 
Big picture: March may have come out like a lion, but we all know April is the cruelest month. Barclays Chief U.S. Economist Michael Gapen told Bloomberg, “the April data is likely to be even worse because for a good half of March, things were still open.”


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