2.5 minutes

National Retail Federation chief economist Jack Kleinhenz attributes the growth to tax refunds and job growth putting more money in shoppers' pockets.

Nonstore sales increased 11.3% year over year in March, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Meanwhile, total retail sales grew at a slower rate — up 4.0% from March 2023, to $709.6 billion. Compared with February 2024, total retail sales were nearly flat in March, growing just 0.7%.

National Retail Federation chief economist Jack Kleinhenz attributes the growth to tax refunds and job growth putting more money in shoppers’ pockets.

“March’s Census Bureau numbers confirm that consumer spending remains steady, underscoring a resilient consumer despite inflationary pressure,” Kleinhenz said in a statement. “While sales were mixed, several factors supported retail sales including an early Easter holiday, slightly larger 2023 tax refunds and stronger payroll growth over the last three months. Nonetheless, the increasing share of consumer spending going to services as prices for services rise remains a stubborn problem because it leaves less household income available to spend on retail goods.”


Nonstore sales in March outperform January, February

So far this year, nonstore sales have grown at the fastest year-over-year rate in January — 25.47%. They then grew 12.04% year over year in February, and 15.47% in March, according to CNBC and NRF’s Retail Monitor.

At the same time, total retail sales have grown between 2.3% and 2.8% year over year each month in 2024. (2.34% in January, 2.70% in February and 2.7% in March. Retail Monitor excludes automobile and gas sales.

Furthermore, for the quarter (January 2024 through March), total sales grew 2.1% year over year. In February, sales had grown just 2.1% year over year, and 0.9% over January.


Nonstore sales grew 0.68% in January 2024 over December 2023, according to the Retail Monitor. They then fell 0.12% in February over January before growing 2.48% in March over February.

That compares with a 0.16% decrease in January total sales and then 0.40% growth in February. Total retail sales also grew 0.36% in March over February, according to the Retail Monitor.

March online grocery sales

After falling two years in a row, March online grocery sales were nearly identical in 2024 and 2023, according to data from the monthly Brick Meets Click and Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey.

March online grocery sales grew fast in 2021, to $9.3 billion from $6.5 billion in 2020. Since then, they decreased to $8.7 billion in 2022 and then $8.0 billion both this year and in 2023. Overall, online grocery sales in March 2024 are up 23% from March 2020.


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