According to the CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor for February, retail sales continued to grow for the month, albeit due partly to the leap day on February 29. Still, the report said last month built off the solid gains from January, with total retail sales in February, excluding autos and gas, increasing 1.06 percent seasonally-adjusted month-over-month (MoM) and up 6.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year (YoY) in February. The February trend compared with a decrease of 0.16 percent MoM and an increase of 2.34 percent YoY in January.

The CNBC/NRF Retail Monitor calculation of core retail sales for February, excluding restaurants, autos and gas, was up 0.95 percent MoM and up 6.69 percent YoY in February. That compared with a decrease of 0.04 percent MoM and an increase of 3.24 percent YoY in January.

For additional context, the report states that when further seasonalization is applied to remove the leap-year effect of a 29th day in February from the calculations, total adjusted retail sales MoM softens from an increase of 1.06 percent to an increase of 0.4 percent. Core retail sales also softened from an increase of 0.95 percent to an increase of 0.27 percent. Similarly, when looking at unadjusted year-over-year numbers, increases in the total and core retail measures drop to 2.7 percent and 2.99 percent, respectively, from 6.3 percent and 6.69 percent. There was also an effect at the sectoral level as several categories dropped to negative for both MoM and YoY, including furniture, electronics and building supplies.

“February retail sales indicate continued momentum from consumers,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “While the future direction of interest rates and inflation remains uncertain, it’s clear that a strong job market and increases in real wages are continuing to support spending.”

This is the fifth month that the Retail Monitor, launched in November 2023, has provided data on monthly retail sales. Unlike survey-based numbers collected by the Census Bureau, the Retail Monitor uses actual, anonymized credit and debit card purchase data compiled by Affinity Solutions and does not need to be revised monthly or annually.

February sales were up in all but one of nine retail categories on a yearly basis, led by online sales, sporting goods stores and health and personal care stores, and up across the board on a monthly basis. Specifics from key sectors include:

Image and data courtesy NRF/CNBC Retail Monitor