NRF: Retail sales stayed strong in January

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WASHINGTON – Retail sales in January were nearly as strong as during the holiday season, dropping only 0.26% on a seasonally adjusted basis from December, according to the National Retail Federation. And sales rose 5.4% compared to last January.

“These numbers reinforce a positive start to 2018 that reflects ongoing consumer optimism brought about by solid economic fundamentals,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Consumer spending continues to grow at a steady pace and is showing year-over-year increases across almost all retail sectors. Employment has increased, labor markets are tightening and wage growth is on the rise. Stock market headlines are a concern for some shoppers, but households have the wherewithal to spend, and the tax cuts consumers are now seeing in their paychecks will bring an added boost.”

NRF’s numbers, which exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported Wednesday that overall January sales — including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants — were down 0.3% seasonally adjusted from December but up 5% year-over-year. Some headlines have called out the fact that the 0.3% decline is the largest since February 2017, but Kleinhenz is more upbeat.

“Some observers are spinning this as a disappointing month but you’ve got to keep in mind that we’re coming off one of the strongest holiday seasons in years,” he said. “It’s also difficult to draw conclusions from month-to-month changes because of the huge seasonal-adjustment factors.”

The January numbers follow 5.1% unadjusted year-over-year growth in holiday sales during November and December, which was revised down slightly from the 5.5% that was initially reported. December sales were down 0.1% from November seasonally adjusted but up 3.8% year-over-year. The three-month year-over-year moving average is at 5.2 %, NRF said.

NRF recently forecast a 3.8% to 4.4% increase in retail sales for 2018.

Other details from the January sales report include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 13.2% year-over-year and were unchanged from December.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 6.6% year-over-year but down 0.4% from December.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 6% year-over-year but down 2.4% from December.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 3.1% year-over-year and up 1.2% from December.
  • General merchandise stores were up 3% year-over-year and up 0.2% from December.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were up 2.9% year-over-year and up 0.5% from December.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 1.8% year-over-year but down 1.2% from December.
  • Sporting goods stores showed the only year-over-year decrease, down 5.9% and also down 0.8% from December.

Sales comparisons between January and December are seasonally adjusted.



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