Retail Sales Get a Boost in January

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January retail-industry sales—excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants—increased 0.9% from December and 4% over last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

“Thanks to a combination of unseasonably warm weather across much of the country and millions of shoppers with gift cards burning holes in their pockets, retailers are still riding the tailwinds of consumers’ spending power,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “As a traditionally slower sales month for the industry, it’s encouraging to see such sustained growth in consumer spending and sentiment.”

January retail-sales data, released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce, showed total retail sales—which include nongeneral merchandise categories, such as autos, gas stations and restaurants—increased 5.6% over last year and 0.4% over the prior month.

In particular:

•Sporting goods, hobby, book and music store sales increased 1.1% over the prior month and 3.5% over the prior year.
•General merchandise store sales increased 2% over December and 4.7% over the prior year.
•Building material, garden equipment and supplies dealer sales increased 0.2% over the prior month and 10.5% over the prior year.
•Furniture and home furnishing store sales decreased 0.2% from December and increased 7.9% over the prior year.
•Electronics and appliance store sales increased 0.5% over the prior month and decreased 1.1% over the prior year.
•Clothing and clothing accessory store sales were flat over the prior month and increased 3.4% over last year.

“A slightly improving labor market with gains in payrolls has lifted consumer confidence in January and corresponds with increasing retail sales,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “However, consumer spending alone will not be enough to sustain economic growth or provide a strong foundation for consistent retail sales and growth. We must see improvements in key economic indicators, such as housing and employment.”

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