WASHINGTON -- Consumers appear to be returning to stores, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade association here. The group reported that sales increased slightly for the 10th straight month in April.
While the 0.2% gain in April might seem small, it represents an ongoing trend that could indicate the country is finally working its way back to economic health, NRF said. Its calculations also showed that adjusted over the year, growth stood at 4%.
For vending operators dependent on foot traffic in a wide variety of retail locations, even these small increases could mean good news. NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz credited increased hiring and wage growth as two key factors driving retail spending.
NRF president and chief executive Matthew Shay said: "With 10 consecutive months of growth, retailers are on the front lines of economic recovery, though higher commodity prices are beginning to weigh on some consumers. For the retail industry to continue to lead the charge, Congress must address the legislative uncertainty [arising] from issues like credit card company swipe fees, uncompetitive tax laws and the new healthcare law."
The federation's figures are in line with other data from the same time period. For instance, The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index rose to 65.4 from a revised 63.8 in March, while Bloomberg's Consumer Comfort Index ticked upwards in the week ended April 17 to the best level since the end of February, posting its fourth consecutive gain.
However, the NFR warned that positive gains could be wiped out by a variety of factors, including a continued decrease in home prices, rising prices at gas pumps or an uptick in unemployment.