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Retail Sales Climb; Fastest Rate in Four Months

Improvements in the U.S. economy bolstered retailers’ February sales, reflecting improved consumer sentiment as it relates to spending. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) for February 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from January and 4.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Retailers have done a commendable job keeping their inventory levels where they need to be, while still offering attractive promotions for those who are eager to spend,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “The big challenge retailers will face in the coming months, however, will be going head to head with high cotton, food, and energy prices.”

“February retail sales are in sync with evidence of the expanding economy,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “While February is typically a slow month for retailers, consumers showed their spending power, though it’s too soon to tell what type of impact the spike in gasoline prices will have on consumers this spring.”

February retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations, and restaurants) increased 1 percent seasonally adjusted over January and 9.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Solid growth in discretionary spending was seen across the board.

NPD Analyst: Retailers Scrambling to Recover Lost Sales

Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst of The NPD Group, initially expected that the holiday 2010 season would “be remembered as a good year, not a great one.”
“To be great,” said Cohen right before Christmas, “the consumer would have to be in a frenzy and retailers would still be stocked with plenty of product to go around.” According to Cohen, retailers practiced the theory that it is better to sell out than to have leftovers.
On Monday, Cohen revised his outlook saying: “Holiday 2010 just went from a truly Merry Christmas for retailers to a lost weekend with retailers scrambling to recover lost sales.” Cohen called the post-Christmas weekend “brutal,” citing an already shortened post-holiday shopping weekend due to the holiday falling on a Saturday and the Sunday snowstorm in the Midwest and Northeast.
“All-in-all, retailers will lose about 0.5 [percent] of sales with the loss of this big post-Christmas day. And by the time they make it up, the sales will fall out of the range of the ‘holiday numbers’,” Cohen said. “Consumers will now have to wait longer to use those gift cards and make their returns. This is an important part of the sales in that consumers tend to spend approximately an additional 16 percent above the face value of gift cards and returns.”

Report: April Retail Sales Increase 4.6 Percent in 2010

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), April retail industry sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) increased 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted over March and 4.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Sales for March and April, the typical months for Easter purchases, increased 5.6 percent unadjusted over last year.

April statistics released by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (including non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations, and restaurants) increased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted over March and 9.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

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