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Spring spending break is no fun for retail sector as US shoppers prefer to pay off their credit cards

US consumers took a spring break from spending last month and more so on big ticket items. That meant retail sales came in flat for April compared to March, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Analysts had expected 0.2% growth during the Easter month.

However, at least the return to warmer April weather meant clothing and accessories stores reported sales up 0.2%. But that’s where the good news ended as department store sales dipped 2.2%, furniture stores fell 0.9% and electrical stores slid 0.4%.

While stripping out motor vehicle purchases meant retail sales did inch up 0.1% and on a year-on-year basis April sales were 1.5% ahead, that wasn’t enough to bring much cheer.

“Retail sales disappointed in April,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation (NRF). “Consumer spending on a year-over-year basis was anaemic.”

Although retailers had predicted, or at least hoped, that pent-up demand would push shoppers into stores once the weather improved, many opted to save the gains made from cheaper fuel prices to pay down debt. Now those fuel prices have rebounded, consumers have even less cash for retail therapy.

But some industry watchers say that consumers will return as the economy shakes off the after-effects of the West Coast ports dispute and unusually bad weather in some parts of the country.

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