U.S. specialty jewelry store sales fell 2.4 percent year on year to $2.221 billion in April, according to government calculations. The decline at specialty stores was more pronounced than the sector as a whole, as jewelry and watch sales across all channels in April fell only 1.5 percent to $5.427 billion.
Specialty jewelry store sales in the first four months of 2015 have declined 4.7 percent year on year to $8.498 billion. Total jewelry and watch sales in the same period, meanwhile, fell 1.2 percent to $19.018 billion, subject to several revisions.
Advanced sales estimates for May at U.S. department stores continued to slide, falling 3.2 percent year on year to $13.574 billion. But weak consumer spending also permeated across the retail and food sector -- excluding motor vehicles and auto parts -- as sales were flat at $364.03 billion. Retail trade sales improved 2 percent. Nonstore retail sales rose 6 percent to $37.681 billion.
Lindsey Piegza, the chief economist at Stifel, cited automobile sales as a bright spot for the retail sector, helping to push May's retail sales up 1.2 percent compared with figures in April. However, even with month-to-month improvement in retail sales, "consumer spending has clearly failed to mirror the 2014-style rebound many analysts were hoping for," she wrote in a note to clients.
Piegza stated that retail sales are averaging just 0.1 percent higher since December and only 0.2 percent up over the past 12 months. "Without a strong showing from the consumer, as a consumer-based economy, we can't expect much from the second quarter growth profile," she said.
If consumer spending remains modest, coupled with ongoing stagnant business investment, it appears many of the slow-growth trends at the start of the year have carried past March. Piegza concluded that if the gross domestic product falls short of 2 percent growth in the second quarter, following the 0.7 percent decline in the first quarter, the U.S. economy is poised for the "worst first-half performance since the Great Recession."