Overall retail sales dipped slightly in February, but core spending rose, according to data reviewed by the National Retail Federation.
“February’s retail sales growth is not surprising given the strong growth we saw last month, continuing to reflect consumers’ ability and willingness to spend thoughtfully on household priorities,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “While recent volatility in banking and financial markets is adding to economic uncertainty, the underlying fundamentals in the consumer economy remain on solid footing as jobs and wages are growing and inflation is trending down. Retailers continue to find innovative ways to meet consumers with the right products, offer the best prices to help families stretch their dollars, and deliver great experiences.”
“Sales growth has slowed in recent months, but consumers’ economic health still looks good,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “February is typically the slowest month of the year, so monthly fluctuations are expected. Sales are higher than last year and that’s due in large part to the strong labor market, which means more income and spending. We are seeing a decent trend for retail sales growth built on the upward revisions to December and January sales. Nonetheless, seasonal adjustment factors the government is applying to the monthly data to account for irregular post-pandemic spending patterns make it difficult to accurately measure the strength of the consumer.”
The U.S. Census Bureau today said overall retail sales in February were down 0.4 percent from January but up 5.4 percent year-over-year. In January, sales were up 3.2 percent month over month and up 7.7 percent year-over-year.
NRF’s calculation of retail sales, which excludes auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants to focus on core retail, showed February was up 0.5 percent from January and up 6.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year. In January, sales were up 2 percent month over month and up 6.9 percent year-over-year. NRF’s numbers were up 6 percent unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average as of February.
February sales were up in all but one retail category on a yearly basis, led by general merchandise stores, online sales and health and personal care stores, and increased in five out of nine categories on a monthly basis. Specifics from key sectors include:
- General merchandise stores were up 0.5 percent month over month seasonally adjusted and up 10.7 percent unadjusted ear-over-year;
- Online and other non-store sales were up 1.6 percent month over month seasonally adjusted and up 8.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year;
- Health and personal care stores were up 0.9 percent month over month seasonally adjusted and up 8 percent unadjusted year-over-year;
- Grocery and beverage stores were up 0.5 percent month over month seasonally adjusted and up 5.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year;
- Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 0.8 percent month over month seasonally adjusted but up 4.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year;
- Sporting goods stores were down 0.5 percent month over month seasonally adjusted but up 3.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year;
- Building materials and garden supply stores were down 0.1 percent month over month seasonally adjusted but up 0.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year;
- Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 2.5 percent month over month seasonally adjusted but up 0.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year;
- Electronics and appliance stores were up 0.3 percent month over month seasonally adjusted but down 2.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year;
NRF will release its 2023 retail sales forecast as part of its State of Retail and the Consumer venue on March 29.