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Is the Easter Bunny to Blame for the Sales Growth Slowdown?

Most retail sectors continued to post solid year-over-year sales growth in March, but the traditional acceleration of momentum from February to March never happened. A calendar shift may be partly to blame, according to a new report.

Luxury and e-commerce recorded strong growth during March, while electronics sales and department stores showed modest gains, according to the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, a report that tracks national retail and services sales.

Some segments of the restaurant sector also showed strength in March. The travel sectors, particularly airlines, saw improvements as well, although fuel surcharges may be responsible for some of the growth in airline spending.

“Most retail sectors continued to record solid growth year-over-year similar to February, although we’re not seeing an acceleration of momentum from February to March,” said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for SpendingPulse. “The lack of momentum in some sectors could be due to calendar shifts, given that Easter falls very late this year.”

Men’s and women’s apparel sales may have been one of the sectors particularly affected by the Easter calendar shift, the report said.

While total apparel sales recorded their eighth consecutive year-over-year sales gains, increasing by 4.4 percent, March gains are approximately half of the average growth recorded between September 2010 and February 2011.

E-commerce continued to grow in double digits, highlighting the continued strength in online sales. The sector posted its fifth consecutive month of double-digit growth, rising 16.1 percent, exceeding February’s 13.2 percent increase.

Tiffany tastes were sated as well. The SpendingPulse Luxury Index, which measures sales at high-end restaurants , food stores, department stores and general apparel categories, was up 8.5 percent, the largest year-over-year increase since December 2010, and the sixth consecutive month of growth.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.