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Consumers Shell Out in January, Despite Multiple Challenges

NRF report shows sales gains in several store categories, including grocery and beverage
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
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Despite numerous roadblocks, retail stores rang up more sales in January, according to NRF's findings.

Like dodging potholes on winter roads, American consumers swerved through several simultaneous challenges to sustain retail sales in January. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports robust gains in retail sales as 2022 got underway.

“January sales overcame major headwinds that make the results all the more impressive,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “A triad of forces weighed on consumer behavior and spending as weather slammed a large portion of the United States, the Omicron variant was relentless, and inflation was escalating. On top of that, the enhanced child care tax credit ceased at the end of 2021, impacting millions of families. Despite all that, consumers ramped up spending even after a record-breaking holiday season.”

By NRF’s calculations, overall core retail sales edged up 4.7% from the previous month and rose 8.5% on a year-over-year unadjusted basis. That compares to December, when sales dipped 3.3% from November but were up 13% over the largely-at-home December 2020.

Almost every category posted gains in January, including furniture, general merchandise, apparel, building materials and electronics. In grocery and beverage stores, sales ticked up 1.1% from December and were 7.2% higher on 12-month unadjusted basis. Health and personal care stores experienced some of the few declines, down 0.7% month over month, seasonally adjusted.

“While the year ahead has challenges with inflationary pressures, labor shortages, COVID-19 impacts and uncertainty related to international tensions in Russia and China, today’s numbers show that despite these concerns, consumers are spending, and the economy remains in good shape,” added Matthew Shay, NRF's president and CEO. “We are confident that retail sales growth and overall consumer financial health can continue, and current pressures in the economy should be moderated if election-year political pressures don’t result in policy decisions that compound the challenges our economy is already facing.”

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