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Report: Consumer Discretionary Retail Spending Continues to Climb

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The retail market is making a comeback.

In a recent report, The NPD Group finds that the U.S. is in a much different position than it was this time last year related to the pandemic. While discretionary retail sales reflect that, they also showcase the impact of the latest round of stimulus checks.

Through March 2021 and into early April, weekly discretionary retail sales results have not only surpassed 2020 figures when the marketplace saw a steep drop in consumer spending at the start of the lockdown period but also the same weeks in 2019. In the week ending April 3, 2021, NPD's retail early indicator data shows a 39 percent increase compared to two years ago and more than double that growth compared to last year.

"The double-digit dollar gains seen over the past four weeks compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019 reflect the strength and fortitude of the U.S. consumer and the continuation of their 'here-and-now focus on spending," says Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor, retail, The NPD Group. "The stimulus is indeed stimulating consumer spending and bringing their emerging wants and needs to the surface as they begin to reengage in more in-person activities – indicators retail needs to pay attention to as it readies for the coming months."

When comparing to 2019, growth is occurring with the most recent stimulus rollout. This is the most significant pre-pandemic dollar growth seen of any stimulus distribution to date.

While quarantine-driven needs continue to drive tech growth, apparel and footwear emerged in the top growth categories during the past three stimulus-related growth peaks, with sport-lifestyle footwear, knit shirts, sweatshirts, pants or shorts, depending on the season.According to NPD, consumers plan to purchase the following in the next 60 to 90 days:

  • 48 percent plan to purchase apparel;
  • 36 percent plan to purchase footwear;
  • 30 percent plan to purchase beauty products;
  • 26 percent plan to purchase home products (small appliances, housewares, etc.);
  • 24 percent plan to purchase books; and
  • 15 percent plan to purchase tickets to an event(s) or travel.
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