Last week, it seemed that things were looking up for U.S. retailers, as many beat expectations with their first-quarter earnings reports. But now consumers have their say. Their message is that gas prices and other costs are forcing to them to cut back on shopping. Retail sales dropped 0.2 percent in the month of April, according to the Commerce Department. It was the third straight monthly decline.
A 2.8 percent drop in auto sales was the key in April. In fact, if it wasn't for the poor car sales, retail sales would have been up 0.5 percent. Another factor dragging down sales was poor performance by department stores, where sales fell 0.1 percent.