The National Retail Federation said consumers managed to adjust to the loss of their payroll tax holiday and higher fuel prices, with the result being an increase in retail spending both over January 2013 and February 2012. Still, caution rules the day, particularly as sequestration effects begin to be felt, says NRF.
Seasonally adjusted, spending was up 0.7% over January, excluding automobiles, fuel and restaurants), and unadjusted it was up 0.5% over the previous February.
Add in the three categories excluded above and there was a 1.1% adjusted gain over January 2013 and a 4.6% adjusted gain over February 2012.
“Retail continues to show its importance to the economy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “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. 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.”
Added NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz, “Consumers, once again, exceeded economists’ expectations and estimates in February. 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.”
Here, from NRF, are category-specific results:
* 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.