High energy costs ate into retailers’ March sales, and will likely take a bite into spring results, too, according to an economist, but a retail industry tracker said the forecast isn’t totally gloomy.
“Spring retail sales are likely to be somewhat soft, but not as bad as the previous year’s results,” said Joel Naroff, president and chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors, of Holland, Pa.
His comments followed Wednesday’s U.S. Commerce Department report that U.S. retailers’ sales increased 0.4 percent in March — reportedly, the smallest gain since last July.
Rising gas prices will continue to constrain growth and consumer spending will probably remain mediocre, Naroff said.
“People who might have otherwise bought goods and services will instead be putting their money into the gas tank,” he said.
But the March uptick “was the ninth month in a row that saw an increase in sales, so we’re heading in the right direction,” said John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association.
New Jersey retail activity tends to track national trends, he added. “The March figures re-emphasize the point that we haven’t completely recovered from the economic downturn.”
E-mail Martin C. Daks at email@example.com