After a nice retail rebound in February, Retail Executives apparently kept their upbeat attitude in March as an early Easter promised to give them a lift versus the year-ago period. Still, the holiday lift for the month only brought the execs’ outlook flat to last year as reported in the NRF Executive Opinion Survey, a monthly index by the National Retail Federation. The Retail Sector Performance Index (RSPI) for March rose 2.8 points versus the February reading, but it was about even (+10 basis points) versus March last year. The RSPI measures retail executives' evaluations of a number of key metrics and is based on a scale of 0.0 – 100.0 with 50.0 equaling normal.

The survey respondents appeared to be more upbeat in March in both their current and long-term outlooks for business as the Current Demand Index, which measures expectations for the current period, rose 2.2 points from February and the Demand Outlook, which measures the six-month outlook for retail, rose another 6.5 points in March after a 2.2 point gain in February. However, the six-month look ahead figure is still 3.5 points below last March’s reading, reflecting a still cautious approach to the long-term business.

What is looking up is the retailers’ view on pricing strength, as that metric rose 5.5 points over February and 10.5 points over March last year. That figure is probably a function of what looks like a cleaner inventory position.

Based on the survey results, store traffic appears to be up and Average Transactions per Customer were also on the upside. Strange then that the Sales line was down a bit from February.

>>> SEW would expect that increasing interest rates and higher fuel costs have to weigh on any outlook for the back half…