March retail sales plunge is worst on record

Monthly drop of 8.7 percent was largest in three decades of tracking

National /
Apr.April 15, 2020 10:18 AM
Last month saw the largest one-month drop in sales in three decades of record-keeping. (Credit: iStock)

Last month saw the largest one-month drop in sales in three decades of record-keeping. (Credit: iStock)

March was the worst month for U.S. retailers on record.

Sales dropped a stunning 8.7 percent from February as the coronavirus pandemic caused governments to close non-essential businesses, unemployment to skyrocket and millions to hunker down at home. The figure comes from the Commerce Department’s preliminary report on retail sales, as reported by the New York Times.

The 8.7 percent drop is the largest monthly decline in the nearly three decades that the statistic has been kept. The previous record was during the fall 2008 economic collapse when retail sales fell 4 percent in two consecutive months.

Though grocers, pharmacies and retailers stocking essential items saw demand for its products surge, the opposite happened for sales of cars, gas and clothing.

Sales of automobiles and vehicle parts sank 25 percent, while gas stations saw sales fall 17 percent. Clothing stores’ sales were halved. Experts expect a brutal April as well, and many retailers think the moribund sales will continue through the holiday shopping season.

As retailers suffer, commercial landlords are tallying up which companies aren’t paying rent despite having the financial means to do so. Mall owners with a concentration of non-essential tenants collected 10 to 25 percent of April rent, according to a recent report. Major tenants not paying include LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Victoria’s Secret and Staples. [NYT] — Erin Hudson


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