With increased COVID-19 vaccinations, stimulus relief and reduced restrictions on businesses – even with major snow and ice storms across the U.S. – retail sales in February showed year-over-year growth despite decreases from January, according to the National Retail Federation.
NRF’s calculation of retail sales – which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, to focus on core retail – showed February down 3.4% seasonally adjusted from January, but up 7.1% unadjusted year-over-year. That compared with a 7.7% increase month-over-month and a 12.7% increase year-over-year in January.
“February’s retail sales numbers are a minor speed bump on the road to post-pandemic recovery,” says NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “We remain optimistic that retail will help facilitate a surge in spending, job growth and capital investment in the second half of the year as more Americans are vaccinated and local economies reopen nationwide.”
While February’s retail sales declined on a month-over-month basis in every category except groceries, sales were up year-over-year in online and other non-store sales, sales in building materials and garden supply stores, sporting goods stores, grocery and beverage stores, furniture and home furnishings stores and health and personal care stores.
February’s gains come as NRF forecasts a 2021 retail sales increase of between 6.5% and 8.2% over 2020, for a total between $4.33 trillion and $4.4 trillion. Retail sales during 2020 increased 6.6% despite the pandemic, beating the previous record growth rate of 6.3% in 2004.
“Overall, February’s results confirm that consumers are willing to spend as the virus situation improves and continued government stimulus further strengthens the economic backdrop,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz says. “With another round of stimulus checks being mailed right now, we expect another large boost in consumer spending over the next few months.”