Retail Sales Edge Up in February

Census BureauWASHINGTON-U.S. retail sales finished February with a gain of 0.3 percent over January and 1.5 percent ahead of February 2013, totaling $427.2 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sales at furniture and home furnishings stores posted gains of 0.4 percent month over month and 0.3 percent year over year. General merchandise stores’ sales declined 0.3 percent from January and 0.8 percent from February of last year. Sales at department stores (excluding leased departments) were up 0.7 percent from January but dropped 4.8 percent from February 2013. Sales at non-store retailers increased 1.2 percent from January and increased 6.3 percent from February.

Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, called the Census Bureau’s data “encouraging and above expectations. Despite a long and cold winter, consumers continued to persevere and spend in February.” Kleinhenz added that NRF expects consumers to “release pent-up demand” when spring arrives.

Calling the February sales numbers “solid,” Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis for The Conference Board, also said retailers should benefit from the arrival of warmer weather. “Still, the direction of the consumer market for the remainder of the year is more dependent on the strength of the labor market,” Bostjancic said. She added that sales in the mid- to lower-end retail market “are likely to be constrained on the upside by sluggish wage gains.”