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[Slashdot] - US Retail Sales Plunged a Record 16 Percent In April As Virus Hit

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Associated Press: U.S. retail sales tumbled by a record 16.4% from March to April as business shutdowns caused by the coronavirus kept shoppers away, threatened the viability of stores across the country and further weighed down a sinking economy. The Commerce Department's report Friday on retail purchases showed a sector that has collapsed so fast that sales over the past 12 months are down a crippling 21.6%. The severity of the decline is unrivaled for retail figures that date back to 1992. The monthly decline in April nearly doubled the previous record drop of 8.3% -- set just one month earlier. The sharpest declines from March to April were at clothing, electronics and furniture stores. A long-standing migration of consumers toward online purchases is accelerating, with that segment posting a 8.4% monthly gain. Measured year over year, online sales surged 21.6%. Other than online, not a single retail category was spared in April. Auto dealers suffered a monthly drop of 13%. Furniture stores absorbed a 59% plunge. Electronics and appliance stores were down over 60%. Retailers that sell building materials posted a drop of roughly 3%. After panic buying in March, grocery sales fell 13%. Clothing-store sales tumbled 79%, department stores 29%. Restaurants, some of which are already starting to close permanently, endured a nearly 30% decline despite shifting aggressively to takeout and delivery orders. Economists estimate that the gross domestic product (GDP) is shrinking in the April-June quarter at a roughly 40% annual rate. That would be the deepest quarterly drop on record. Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist for the consultancy Maria Fiorini Ramirez, said he thinks retail sales should rebound somewhat as states and localities reopen their economies. But he said overall sales would remain depressed "because there is going to be a big chunk of the lost jobs that don't come back."

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