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NRF: February's Core Retail Sales Were Up From January And A Year Ago.

There's encouraging news for many of radio's biggest advertisers. According to the National Retail Federation, core retail sales grew in February amid a strong labor market, even as overall retail sales showed a slight decline.

NRF’s calculation of retail sales, excluding auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants to focus on core retail, shows February up 0.5% from January and +6.5% unadjusted year-over-year. This follows a January where core sales increased 2.0% month-over-month and 6.9% year-over-year.

Leading the way in February were general merchandise stores with the largest unadjusted year-over-year gain, up 10.7%, while up 0.5% from January. Online and other non-store sales showed the biggest month-to-month growth, up 1.6% from January and 8.5% year-over-year. Also showing both year-over-year and Jan.-Feb. gains were health and personal care stores (+8.0% year-over-year, +0.9% Jan.-Feb.) and grocery and beverage stores (+5.5%, +0.5%).

Retail categories with year-over-year growth, while off from January, include clothing and clothing accessory stores, up 4.1% from February 2022 although down 0.8% from January, sporting goods stores (+3.4% year-over-year, -0.5% month-over-month), building materials and garden supply stores (+0.7%, - 0.1%) and furniture and home furnishings stores (+0.4, -2.5%).

Electronics and appliance stores were the only retail category with an unadjusted year-over-year decrease, down 2.2%, although still up 0.3% Jan.-Feb.

“February’s retail sales growth is not surprising given the strong growth we saw last month, continuing to reflect consumers’ ability and willingness to spend thoughtfully on household priorities,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says. “Retailers continue to find innovative ways to meet consumers with the right products, offer the best prices to help families stretch their dollars, and deliver great experiences.”

Adds NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz, “Sales growth has slowed in recent months, but consumers’ economic health still looks good. We are seeing a decent trend for retail sales growth built on the upward revisions to December and January sales. Nonetheless, seasonal adjustment factors the government is applying to the monthly data to account for irregular post-pandemic spending patterns make it difficult to accurately measure the strength of the consumer.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, February's total retail sales were up 5.4% year-over-year while down 0.4% from January, while January trends showed sales up 7.7% from a year ago and up 3.2% from December 2022.

NRF will release its 2023 retail sales forecast as part of its “State of Retail & the Consumer” event on March 29. Register HERE.

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