NRF: Strong January Retail Sales a Positive Sign

   WASHINGTON - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 2/14/2012 - Building on the momentum of a strong holiday shopping season and propelled by gift card redemptions and warm weather, retailers’ January sales saw solid growth across the board. According to the National Retail Federation, January retail industry sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted from December and 4.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
    “Thanks to a combination of unseasonably warm weather across much of the country and millions of shoppers with gift cards burning holes in their pockets, retailers are still riding the tailwinds of consumers’ spending power,” said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As a traditionally slower sales month for the industry, it’s encouraging to see such sustained growth in consumer spending and sentiment.”
    January retail sales data, released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce, showed total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 5.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year and 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month.
    “A slightly improving labor market with gains in payrolls has lifted consumer confidence in January and corresponds with increasing retail sales,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “However consumer spending alone will not be enough to sustain economic growth or provide a strong foundation for consistent retail sales and growth. We must see improvements in key economic indicators, such as housing and employment.”
    Likely due to January’s unseasonal warmer weather, sales in sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores increased 1.1 percent seasonally month-to-month and 3.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
General merchandise stores’ sales increased 2.0 percent seasonally-adjusted over December and 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
    Many consumers in January seemed to take advantage of the warm temperatures to work on their home and gardens. Sales at building material, garden equipment and supplies dealers increased 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month and a strong 10.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
Sales at furniture and home furnishing stores decreased 0.2 seasonally adjusted from December and increased 7.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
    Electronics and appliance stores’ sales increased 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month and decreased 1.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year, and sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores’ sales were flat over the previous month and increased 3.4 percent unadjusted over last year.