Retail sales had their worst two-month stretch in more than two years in February and March, according to U.S. government data released Friday.
The U.S. Census Bureau said overall retail sales declined two-tenths of a percent in March, driven by lower fuel prices and lower auto profits. The National Retail Federation (NRF) said the delayed issuance of government tax refunds also contributed to weaker spending.
Weaker than expected sales receipts in March and February may also reflect changes taking place in the retail landscape. Business Insider called the changes a “retail apocalypse” that has led to a wave of bankruptcies and store closures. About 3,500 stores across the United States are expected to close in coming months, including some from major chains Macy’s, Sears and Kmart.
But instead of a retail apocalypse, NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz says it’s part of the natural evolution of the retail industry.
“Other industries have gone through transformations,” he said. “Look at the banking industry. We had twice as many banks 10 to 15 years ago as we do today. There are consolidations that go on. It’s a natural phenomenon in a market economy.”
The phenomenon is driven by new technology and demographic shifts that have changed the way people shop. Kleinhenz said millennials — those who reached adulthood at the turn of the century — are a good example of how buying habits have changed.
“They’re more comfortable with new technology,” he said. “They’re not buying…