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RISMEDIA, April 15, 2009-Several months of stronger-than-expected retail sales provided hope that the industry was poised to bounce back, but March retail sales demonstrate that the industry is continuing to struggle. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail industry sales for March (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) decreased 0.6% seasonally adjusted from February and dropped 3.7% unadjusted over last year.

March retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) decreased 1.1% seasonally adjusted over February and decreased 10.6% unadjusted year-over-year. Retail industry sales for February were revised upward, increasing 0.3% instead of dipping 0.1% as originally reported.

“A chilly start to spring and a late Easter combined for dreary March sales,” said Rosalind Wells, chief economist for NRF. “To compensate for the Easter shift, retailers typically look at March and April together to get a better look at how their stores performed. Easter should give a much-needed boost to April sales.”

One of the only bright spots in March came from health and personal care stores, whose sales increased 0.4%t seasonally adjusted over last month and 3.5% unadjusted over last year. Food and beverage stores sales also increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted month-to-month but decreased 1.8% unadjusted year-over-year.

The shift in Easter sales also played a role in consumer purchases of clothing and clothing accessories. Sales at those stores decreased 1.8% seasonally adjusted from February and decreased 8.7% unadjusted over March 2008.

Electronics and appliance stores sales decreased 5.9% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and decreased 10.0% unadjusted year-over-year. Sales at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores also decreased 0.9% seasonally adjusted over last month and decreased 3.0% unadjusted over last year.

For more information, visit www.nrf.com.

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