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March Retail Sales Get Short-Lived Boost From Early Easter Holiday, Reports Circana

Seasonal demand patterns are changing as the timing and focus of consumer spending evolves.

In March 2024, U.S. retail sales revenue and unit demand, including both discretionary general merchandise and consumer packaged goods (CPG), grew 2% compared to the same month last year. However, retail sales during the week ending April 6, 2024 declined across all retail segments when compared to the week of Easter 2023, according to Circana™, the leading advisor on the complexity of consumer behavior.

“Despite the appearance of sales volatility in week-to-week sales trends created by shifts in the calendar, the consumer spending behaviors are stabilizing,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry advisor for Circana. “As consumers have become even more committed to buying for the here and now, it is the shifts in broader seasonal demand patterns that warrant attention.”

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The expanded view of the Easter shopping season, spanning the week before and the week after, reveals a retail sales peak that fell short across all major retail segments. Retail holiday shopping peaks have been flattening for the past couple of years, and each of the retail mini-holidays so far this year are following the same pattern. Beyond shifts in timing, the type of spending taking place for these mini-holidays and seasonal events is changing, as well. Apparel sales are just one example, not getting the traditional Easter bump this year as spring assortments make an appearance. Prestige beauty was the only discretionary industry with positive revenue performance during the expanded Easter comparison period.

“Current retail purchase patterns are being led by the consumer. They are more focused on buying based on what they value in the moment, be it personal cravings, financial concerns, or the weather, rather than being guided by seasonal trends and traditional habits,” added Cohen. “Whether it is a true change in behavior or a short-term reaction, manufacturers and retailers need to decide how, or if, they want to chase today’s value-driven consumer.”

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