March retail traffic was up +5.5%, down from +12.1% in the last week of February. Recent traffic trends continue to slow from the highs seen in early January. Analysts say warming and dry trends, on average, have likely contributed to the increase in sales, but the late spring will affect store traffic trends going forward.
Retail Traffic in March
For the first week of March, retail traffic was up 5.5% year over year versus +12.1% for the fourth week of February. Overall, U.S. retail traffic was down 21.7% in the first week of March compared to 2019 (versus a 4.7% decline in the fourth week of February compared to 2019). This represents a continued slowdown from the strong positive trend in January. Analysts note that average traffic slowed to +19.6% year-over-year in February, despite more favorable weather conditions and warmer, drier trends that began after the holidays in late December.
U.S. retail traffic for all of February averaged +19.6%, down from a +44.9% year-over-year average in January. Total U.S. retail traffic averaged +26.9% year-over-year in 2022. Retail traffic averaged +14.4% y/y in December, +5.2% y/y in November, +6.1% y/y in October, and +10.4% y/y in September 2022.
How did the temperature change?
Temperatures were 0.2° colder than in 2022 and only +4.3° above the historical average. The first week of March saw +167% more precipitation than last year and +53% above the historical average.
Experts are predicting a +5% to +15% year-over-year increase in U.S. retail sales as weather trends may not be favorable for stores in the Northeast and West Coast.
According to Weather Trends International (“WTI”), temperatures are likely to rise across the central U.S., which will have a positive impact on store traffic as this could be the 3rd warmest March on record. The South Central U.S. The Southeast should also see positive trends in store traffic. Trends in the West Coast could have a negative impact on store traffic given that the beginning of March will be the coldest in more than 30 years. Cooler temperatures in the Northeast, along with the possibility of winter precipitation, will likely not be favorable for store attendance trends.
Apparel traffic increased +8.3% year over year versus +11.4% in the last week of February. Recall that apparel traffic averaged +8.7% year-over-year in the second half of 2022. For the first week of March, U.S. apparel traffic was up +4.1% year-over-year in 2019, up significantly from the week before (-17.6%).