Feb. Retail Sales Up 0.7%

Retail sales beat February estimates as consumers adjusted their spending in response to an increase in payroll taxes and higher gasoline prices, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

February retail sales -- excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants -- increased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from January and increased 0.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Retail continues to show its importance to the economy,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “That said, our consumer research consistently shows a cautious shopper that is making tough spending decisions based upon economic uncertainties, lower paychecks and higher prices for things such as gas."

"This is particularly true among those making $50,000 or less a year,” Shay continued. “While retail sales numbers indicate good momentum for the economy, consumers with less earning power may continue to face ongoing pressure and retail sales will encounter further challenges as sequestration takes full effect in March.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, last month’s total retail and food services sales -- which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants -- increased 1.1 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 4.6 percent adjusted year-over-year.

“Consumers, once again, exceeded economists’ expectations and estimates in February,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. “It may be too early to measure the impact of the payroll tax hike and higher gasoline prices on consumer spending. However, this portends a good, but not great, first quarter for retailers as consumers continue to breathe life into the economy.”

Other findings from the February retail sales report include:

  • Building material & garden equipment and supplies dealers stores’ sales increased 1.1 percent seasonally-adjusted and increased 0.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessories stores' sales increased 0.2 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 0.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores’ sales decreased 0.2 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 3.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishing stores’ sales decreased 1.6 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 2.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores’ sales increased 0.5 seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores’ sales were flat seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and decreased 2.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Nonstore retailers’ sales increased 1.6 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 11.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores’ sales decreased 0.9 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and increased 0.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

The NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad.

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