In April 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued a statewide stay at home order for all residents of Pennsylvania, which temporarily closed many businesses statewide. These measures were put in place as a necessity to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, but with residents like those in Lehigh County following stay at home orders, retail sales across various industries in the state of Pennsylvania plummeted a staggering -28.5% compared to April 2019, 7.8% below the U.S. national average of -20.7% at that time.
Some retail industries throughout Pennsylvania were more impacted by these measures than others in April 2020. Compared to the previous April, motor vehicle and parts dealers witnessed a decrease in retail sales of -37.9%, electronics and appliance stores by 60.8%, and clothing/accessory stores show a staggering -99.2% loss in sales, while stores and dealers that provide building materials, gardening equipment and home supplies witnessed an increase of +1.8%. Pennsylvania saw fluctuations in retail sales compared to 2019 for the rest of 2020, with sales falling again in May and August, and modest increases the rest of the year.
However, 2021 was a more positive year for retail sales in both Pennsylvania and across the country. With effective vaccines against COVID-19 becoming available, and coordinated efforts by local, state, and federal governments led by the Biden administration to make vaccines free and accessible to all Americans, state governments were able to lift restrictions and allow businesses to operate safely again. Pennsylvania saw a 19.8% increase in year over year retail sales from November 2020 to November 2021, changes that showed a major sign of relief for businesses and residents across Pennsylvania.
Retail sales across the U.S. improved between February and April of 2021, especially in Pennsylvania. From February to March, the national average for retail sales increased by 29.3% compared to the previous year, while the average for Pennsylvania increased by 31.3%. And from March to April, retail sales bounced even higher, with the national average reaching 55.5% and Pennsylvania’s average reaching a 71.5% increase compared to the previous year, the highest peak average in retail sales on record from the beginning of 2020 to the end of 2021. After April, the percentage change in retail sales in Pennsylvania, compared to the previous year, started decreasing but consistently totaled a 14% increase each month throughout the rest of 2021 with the lowest total in that time frame being 14.2% in July.