Retail Sales Fell 0.1% in February

Retail Sales Fell 0.1% in February

In this Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, photograph, sun glints off the headlight housing of an unsold 2018 Maserati Levante in a long line of the high-end sports utility vehicles sitting on a dealer's lot in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

NRF reported that its retail sales data, which excludes automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants, saw a 0.3% seasonally adjusted gain from January to February and a 4.4% annual gain. Clothing stores totaled $22.2 billion in sales, a 0.4% increase for the month, but up 4.9% over February 2017. Shoppers have opened 2018 with a cold spell after robust spending gains in the months leading up to the holidays. The year-over-year increase was dramatic, notes Naveen Jaggi, JLL President of Retail, who said that the much improved employment picture in the USA played a large part in that.

"Consumers are still in the driver's seat", NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

Andrew Hunter, US economist at Capital Economics, said that sales were "subdued..." But those delays could lead to a boost in income-and spending-later this spring once the refunds are delivered.

Still, there may be limits to how much retail sales can rise.

"Retail sales spiked in February compared to the previous year, in large part to continued momentum in consumer confidence and overall economic strength - particularly in the labor markets", he said in an email to Retail Dive. Retail sales are increasingly influenced by the aging of the baby boomer generation, who tend to spend less after retirement. Sales of newly built homes and existing homes have both increased in the a year ago, and they need to be outfitted with new furnishing and new appliances. Better off were building materials and garden supply stores, posting an increase of 5.1% year-over-year and 1.9% from January seasonally adjusted. They added a healthy 50,300 jobs in February, according to the Labor Department's jobs report.

Retailers remain optimistic about a sales rebound.

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