Inside This Issue - News
Retail sales take turn for better
March 31st, 2014
NEW YORK – U.S. retail sales rose slightly more than expected in February, demonstrating the economy’s underlying strength after cold weather suppressed sales earlier in the winter.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), month-over-month retail sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, rose 0.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis in February, while increasing 2.3% unadjusted.
Meanwhile, the Department of Commerce, which includes autos, gas and restaurants in its computations, calculated February’s month-on-month gain at 0.3%, following January’s 0.6% drop and reversing two consecutive monthly declines. Receipts rose in most retail categories, the department noted.
Retailers welcomed the rebound as they continue to move inventory that piled up during the harsh winter.
The fact that consumers persevered through the cold bodes well for sales once the weather improves, said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. "While the weather continues to play tricks on economic forecasts and figures, we expect much-needed clarity come spring, as consumers release pent-up demand," Kleinhenz observed.
In its analysis of the February data, the NRF pointed out that sales at general merchandise stores decreased 0.3% month to month on an adjusted basis, and 0.9% year over year.
The federation said February sales at health and personal care stores rose a seasonally adjusted 1.2% from the previous month, and 5.6% year over year.
Among the few mass market retailers that still report monthly sales, Costco Wholesale Corp. posted a 2% gain in February same-store sales. But its core U.S. comparable-store sales, excluding gasoline, climbed 4% from January.
Among February’s standouts was Walgreen Co., which reported a same-store sales gain of 4.5%. The operator of the nation’s largest drug store chain cited stronger growth at its pharmacies and an increase in the number of flu shots it administered.
Pharmacy sales at stores open at least a year rose 6.1% in February, Walgreens said, while the month’s sales at the front end were up 2%.
Rite Aid Corp., operator of the nation’s No. 3 drug store chain, said February same-store sales rose 1.5%. Comparable-store pharmacy sales were up 3.1%, but front-end sales in the period were off 1.8%.