A slump in consumer prices helped to keep retail sales in check in March.

Retail sales in March inched up 0.3% over February, according to the National Retail Federation. (The NRF numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.)

“Various factors were at play in the first quarter, but we are again seeing a pattern similar to previous years — consumer spending was weak but is expected to pick up as we move through the year,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz.

Citing the most recent Consumer Price Index numbers that showed prices reversing course in March, Kleinhenz said a lack of pricing power continues to plague the retail industry.

“There is no doubt that weak pricing power led to the bumpy period for retailers in the first part of this year,” he…