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SpendingPulse March 2011 Retail Report: Most Sectors Continue to Record Solid Year-Over-Year Sales Growth


Purchase, N.Y. - MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, a macroeconomic report tracking national retail and services sales, today provided summary results for performance of specific U.S. retail industries in March 2011. Electronics sales and Department stores showed modest gains while Luxury and e-Commerce recorded strong growth. Some segments of the Restaurant sector also showed strength in March. The travel sectors, particularly airlines, saw improvement as well, although the growth in airline spending may be attributable in part to fuel surcharges.

Michael McNamara, Vice President, Research and Analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, notes, “Most retail sectors continued to record solid growth year-over-year, similar to February, although we’re not seeing an acceleration of momentum from February to March. The lack of increased momentum in some sectors could be due to calendar shifts, given that Easter falls very late this year.”

Mr. McNamara also observes that gasoline prices remain a concern as the average price continues to be above $3.50 a gallon. “Compared to March 2010, we’re seeing drivers pump less gasoline,” he notes. “Based on what we’ve observed in the last three to four years, high gasoline prices typically result in consumers consolidating shopping trips, shopping closer to home, and making fewer trips to the brick and mortar locations as we get to Saturday. On the other hand, we’ve seen the e-Commerce channel benefitting somewhat from this trend. ”

Here are details of some specific sectors for March 2011:

Total Apparel sales recorded their 8th consecutive year-over-year sales gains, increasing by 4.4% year-over-year. Nevertheless, March’s gain is approximately half of the average growth recorded between September 2010 and February 2011. All but one of the apparel sub-sectors recorded year‐over‐year sales growth in March. Children’s wear stayed above 10%, while the Women’s category was in the 6‐7% range. The only sub-sector posting a loss was Footwear, with sales declining 1.6%. The Easter calendar shift may have limited the year-over-year growth in the Men’s and Women’s Apparel segments.

The Furniture sector posted a modest increase of 2.4%, its 5th consecutive month of positive growth. While housing-related sectors are still challenged, this growth was about on par with the average growth rate for the prior six months. Nevertheless, year-over-year sales in March 2011 are still 8‐9% below the March 2008 level and more than 15% below the sales recorded in March 2006 and 2007, at the peak of the housing boom.

e-Commerce continued to grow in double digits, highlighting the continued strength in online sales. The sector posted its fifth consecutive month of double-digit growth, rising by 16.1%, higher than February’s 13.2% increase. Online Total Apparel grew by 18.7%, marking the 16th straight double-digit increase. The sub-categories of apparel also grew robustly, as did Department Stores at 8.4% and Electronics at 14%.

The SpendingPulse Luxury Index, which measures sales at high-end restaurants, food stores, department stores and general apparel categories, was up 8.5%, the largest year-over-year increase since December 2010, and the sixth consecutive month of growth.

SpendingPulse™ Data Source:

A macroeconomic indicator, SpendingPulse reports on national retail and services sales and is based on aggregate sales activity in the MasterCard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for certain other payment forms, such as cash and check. MasterCard SpendingPulse does not represent MasterCard financial performance. SpendingPulse is provided by MasterCard Advisors, the professional services arm of MasterCard Worldwide.

For more on SpendingPulse, please visit:

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