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Retail Sales Were Flat in April

Retail Sales Were Flat in April


Retail Sales Were Flat in April

The pandemic substantially reshaped consumer behavior. Grocery store spending surged during the pandemic while restaurant revenue dropped. Apparel sales plunged as Americans canceled events, and spending on outdoor activities and home improvements soared. As vaccinations have picked up — more than 58 percent of adults have received at least one shot — and warmer weather has taken hold, the retail industry has been waiting to see if spending will revert to its prepandemic levels.L.L. Bean, one of the fortunate American retailers that saw their revenue increase last year as people flocked to buy cozy clothing, outdoors gear and furniture, reported significant jumps in monthly sales this year compared with 2019 and improvements in foot traffic at its stores. But the retailer has also been nervous about how it might fare in the back half of the year, including during the holidays.“Right now, there’s a lot of stimulus money in the marketplace, there’s a lot of disposable income, there’s a lot of places for it,” said Stephen Smith, the chief executive of L.L. Bean. “We’re seeing travel start to pick up and people starting to go back to dinner and build in some entertainment. But in general, money is still flowing into retail.” As more Americans receive vaccinations, he said, that money may start flowing to “destination travel,” airlines and other events.Broadly, many retailers, including L.L. Bean, are feeling optimistic about Americans’ proclivity for spending, as the vaccinations make them feel comfortable returning to stores and as postponed events reappear on calendars.Etsy recently said sales related to weddings soared more than 40 percent in the first quarter, while the clothing retailer Revolve said it was seeing strength in “event dresses” thanks to pent-up demand for special occasions including weddings and graduation celebrations. Viral memes on social media have reflected the ebullience that some younger people are feeling about the summer thanks to vaccinations, with merchandise declaring the onset of “Shot Girl Summer” or that they are “Vaxxed & Waxed.”Mr. Smith said L.L. Bean, which saw increased demand last year for items like slippers, has been seeing renewed interest in denim, oxford shirts and other apparel meant to be worn in public.“People seem to be cleaning themselves up a little bit,” he said. “Things with buttons and zippers are starting to sell faster than things with elastics and drawstrings.”

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