April 2012 Retail Sales increased 0.1%. Minus autos & parts, retail sales also increased 0.1%. March retail sales were revised down from 0.8% to 0.7%. Retail sales are up 6.4% from the same time last year. Retail sales are reported by dollars, not by volume, so dropping prices often reports as a decline in sales.
For the quarter, January to March, retail sales increased 6.6% from the February to April time period one year ago. Nonstore retail sales, which includes online shopping are up 11% from a year ago.
Total retail sales are $408 billion for April. Below is the monthly percentage change of retail sales categories. These numbers are seasonally adjusted. Department stores, part of general merchandise, declined -1.4% from March.
Retail trade sales are retail sales minus food and beverage services. Retail trade sales includes gas, and is up 0.1% for the month, up 6.1% from last year.
As we can see retail sales are lukewarm to declines, not just declining gas sales due to dropping prices. Below is the April advance report retail sales by volume.
The below chart breaks down seasonally adjusted retail sales by category as a percentage of total April sales. Motor Vehicles & Parts is the largest part of retail sales.
Retail sales correlates to personal consumption, which is about 70% of GDP growth. Yet GDP has inflation removed from it's numbers. This is why Wall Street jumps on these retail sales figures. Below is the graph of retail sales in real dollars, or adjusted for inflation, so one gets a sense of volume versus price increases. To obtain real values, retail sales are deflated using CPI. Below is the annualized monthly percentage change in real retail sales, up to Q1 2012.
Retail sales are not adjusted for price increases, not reported in real dollars. Real Economic growth adjusts for inflation. Retail sales has variance, margins of error, and is often revised as more raw data comes into the U.S. Department of Commerce (Census division). For example, this report has an error margin of ±0.5%. Data is reported via surveys, and is net revenues of retail stores, outlets. Online retail net revenues are asked in a separate survey of large retail companies (big box marts). This is also the advanced report. To keep the monthly nominal percentage changes in perspective, below is the graph of monthly percentage changes since 2008.
Seasonal adjustments are aggregate and based on events like holidays associated with shopping, i.e. the Christmas rush.
Advance reports almost always are revised the next month as more raw sales data is collected by the Census.
Here is last month's overview, unrevised.