May sales numbers continue disappointing trend

The retail sales market has been a roller coaster so far in 2014. Poor weather and the post-holiday slowdown started the year on a down note, and while March saw a much-needed jump, we reported last month that April dropped below expectations.

According to a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, the May retail numbers did little to turn things around. Outside of automobile sales, the numbers remain sluggish and could be a worrisome sign for the economy.

The more recent numbers from the Commerce Department found that the May sales numbers for retail and food only rose 0.3 percent when compared to the previous month. When automotive sales are excluded, sales increased only 0.1 percent. If gasoline is also taken out, that figure is flat.

While the number itself can be concerning, it is even worse when you consider that a poll of economists predicted sales figures for May would increase 0.7 percent overall, with a 0.4 percent increase when auto is excluded.

"Thursday's mixed report could damp hopes for a surge of economic growth this spring following a weak first quarter when gross domestic product, the broadest measure of output across the economy, contracted for the first time in three years," the article reads.

Despite the underwhelming monthly reports, the year-on-year comparisons are better. The Commerce Department report shows that total sales were up 4.3 percent in May when compared to 2013.

The retail landscape continues to be up in the air, and merchants need to make sure they are doing everything possible to capture every sale that passes through the door. This includes improved customer service, credit card payment software and the implementation of mobile strategies. 

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