The United States is in a much different position than it was this time last year as it relates to the pandemic, and while discretionary retail sales are reflecting that, they also showcase the impact of the latest round of stimulus checks.
Through March 2021, and into early April, weekly discretionary retail sales results have surpassed 2020 figures when the marketplace saw a steep drop in consumer spending at the start of the lockdown period, and during the same weeks in 2019 when COVID-19 wasn’t part of our vocabulary.
In the week ending April 3, NPD‘s retail early indicator data shows a 39 percent increase compared to two years ago, and more than double that growth when comparing to last year.
“The double-digit dollar gains seen over the past four weeks compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019 reflect the strength and fortitude of the U.S. consumer and the continuation of their ‘here-and-now’ focus on spending,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry advisor, retail. “The stimulus is indeed stimulating consumer spending and bringing their emerging wants and needs to the surface as they begin to reengage in more in-person activities – indicators retail needs to pay attention to as it readies for the coming months.”
When comparing to 2019, we still see growth occurring with the most recent stimulus rollout. This is the largest pre-pandemic dollar growth seen of any stimulus distribution to date.
While quarantine-driven needs continue to drive tech growth, apparel and footwear emerged in the top growth categories during the past three stimulus-related growth peaks, with sport lifestyle footwear, knit shirts or sweatshirts, and pants or shorts (depending on the season).