- US retail sales fell by a record 8.7% in March as the coronavirus pandemic increased layoffs and kept many people at home.
- There were major declines in most areas of the March report, with one bright spot: Grocery stores saw a jump in sales as people stocked up on food during lockdowns.
- Here are the biggest winners and losers from the March report.
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US retail sales slumped in March, showing just how quickly spending slowed as much of the country imposed lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The 8.7% drop in retail sales from February to March was weighed down heavily by declines in clothing and apparel, autos, furniture and home goods, and restaurants, according to the Wednesday report from the Commerce Department.
Still, some retail sectors fared much better than others as consumers looked to stock up on essentials such as food, toilet paper, and other health and personal care items. Sales at food and beverage stores jumped in March, led by solid grocery-store sales.
“Today’s number is one of the first ‘hard data’ reports on aggregate demand in March and reveals the scale of the economic damage wrought by the pandemic last month,” Michael Feroli of JPMorgan wrote in a Wednesday note.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the US economy hard. In three weeks, 17 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance, a record number to have halted paychecks. At the end of March and in early April, many states imposed strict lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, closing nonessential businesses and encouraging people to stay home.