Though the outlook seems to be bleaker for the economy with each passing day, February actually posted modest sales gains for the retail month. Unfortunately, those gains can likely be simply attributable to the increased cost of staples than to any consumer confidence or increased buying trends.

According to a survey of 39 retail-chain stores conducted by the International Council of Shopping Centers, February comp sales grew 1.9%, the strongest increase since November 2007 when sales improved 3.5% over the year-ago period.  However, the month’s comp results mask a downtrend in spending as sales gains were recorded at discount retailers (+2.1%) and wholesale clubs (+6.2%). The numbers show a consumer shopping only for the essentials and trying to find the best deal possible.

Apparel chain stores saw comps decline 4.1% for the month, while department store comps were down 3.3%, including a 4.3% slump at luxury stores.  Teen retailers saw comps decline only 0.4% for the month.

Based on February retail point-of-sale data compiled by SportScanINFO, the sports softgoods market saw sales shift into apparel and away from footwear. 

For the four weeks of fiscal February, dollar sales of Sport Footwear declined in the low-single-digits as units increased in mid-singles. The resulting mid-singles decrease in average selling price can be attributed to a heavily promotional environment paired with a consumer that was less willing to pay top dollar.

Sport Apparel faired better on an overall basis as sales increased in the mid-singles on a similar increase in average selling price. However, this growth is slightly misleading as end of season Outerwear sales fueled much of the ASP gains.

Performance Apparel sales showed healthy growth, derived from Non-Compression product as Compression was relatively flat with an ASP decline. Non-Compression saw growth from early season baseball selling, as well as a general trend toward the more loose fitting performance product.