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Retail sales in February grew despite cold

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Online sales increased 54.7% compared to 2020

PURCHASE, N.Y. — U.S. retail sales grew 4.6% in February despite winter storms that blasted much of the country, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. Online sales grew 54.7% compared to 2020.

Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment, notes that its sales figures for February were adjusted to account for the leap year in 2020. Without the seasonal adjustment, the total retail sales growth would be 1%.

A series of winter storms during the week ended February 20 did significantly affect retail activity across the South, and particularly in Texas. Mastercard SpendingPulse analysis shows how the extreme winter freeze impacted retail sales locally and at the national level.

On February 17, Dallas, Austin and Houston all had year-over-year total retail sale declines of 35% to 50% as retail locations closed amid the crippling cold. With Texas typically accounting for approximately 10% to 11% of U.S. retail sales volume, this widespread event pulled the national growth rate down by 2.2% for the week.

Online sales activity also took a hit as power outages limited consumers’ ability to recharge phones and other devices. This lack of connectivity drove online sales in the region into negative territory for several days.

As the weather cleared, a wave of recovery spending with daily year-over-year gains exceeded 30% in markets such as Dallas, Austin, and Nashville.

“While in-store sales decelerated slightly as a result of winter storms, consumers are continuing to show up online,” said Steve Sadove, Mastercard senior advisor and former CEO of Saks, Inc. “From jewelry to apparel, e-commerce has opened doors for consumers to shop online while warmer days, widespread vaccinations and the loosening of restrictions appear on the horizon.”

At a national level, Mastercard SpendingPulse said key retail trends from February include:

  • Grocery Aisle Touchdown: With more people watching football’s big game from home, Grocery spend was up 30% the three days prior. That contributed to the Grocery sector growing +12.4% YOY for the month.
    Love is in the Air—and in the Mail: Also known for being the month of love, February saw Jewelry spend rise +5.9% and +63.1% online YOY. Restaurant spend remained down (-13.5%) but has showed improvement over the past two months.
  • Cabin Fever Leads to Home Enhancements: No big surprises here, as Furniture & Furnishings (+8.6%) continued to post solid gains as seasonally cooler weather led to home improvements and décor projects.
    Apparel Shopping Continues to Shift Online: While Apparel sales were down -5.3% overall, Apparel e-commerce sales grew +47.3% YOY. This month, 73.9% of all Apparel purchases were made online; a year ago, in February 2020, 47.5% were purchased online vs. in-store.
  • Stimulus Sales Lift Continued, though Fading: The infusion of stimulus payments in early January appeared to boost consumer spending in January and through early February, though the impacts have waned.

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