WASHINGTON–Sales by U.S. retailers totaled $381.6 billion in January, up 0.3 percent from December and 7.8 percent from January 2010, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau.
For retailers that offer home furnishings, the first month of the year presented a mixed picture. Sales at general-merchandise stores rose 0.8 percent, including a 0.5 percent rise in sales at department stores excluding leased departments. However, sales and furniture and home-furnishings stores dropped 0.3 percent.
Commenting on the January checkout totals, Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist of the National Retail Federation, said consumers are benefitting from stock-market gains, tax cuts, income growth and savings built up during the recession. What was particularly encouraging about January, Kleinhenz said, was that spending on discretionary items such as electronics made gains last month.
Matthew Shay, NRF’s president and chief executive officer, said the January results stemmed from “renewed confidence” among consumers. Shay added, however, that “sustained growth in 2011 will largely rely on improvement in key economic indicators like employment and housing.”