MasterCard Spending Pulse: April’s total retail sales up 8.8% year-over year

Purchase, N.Y. -- Excluding auto sales, total retail sales in April 2011 grew by 8.8% year-over-year, stronger than March’s growth rate, and substantially higher than the average 7.1% year-to-year growth rate of the previous quarter, according to MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, a macroeconomic report tracking national retail and service sales.

While spending on gasoline has helped drive overall sales figures to some extent, retail sales ex-gasoline show few signs of abating. Seasonally adjusted retail sales excluding both autos and gasoline were up by 1.4% in April, the fourth straight month of growth.

“We have not seen this sort of sustained growth in retail sales since late 2005/early 2006, when the economy was in much better shape and the unemployment rate was more than 4% below its current level,” said. Kamalesh Rao, director of economic research for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. “Today, the general state of the labor market and a mixed economic environment suggests that the current rate of retail expansion could be vulnerable, especially given the weight of higher fuel costs on discretionary spending. Additional momentum in the labor market could offset that uncertainty.”

Sectors showing positive results in April included e-commerce, luxury, apparel, groceries and travel. Weaker segments included furniture and furnishings, hardware, electronics and department stores.

Spending grew in every part of the country, with the best unadjusted year-over-year results in the Pacific and Southwest regions, respectively posting 13.2% and 12.2% growth.

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