Retail sales, excluding motor vehicle and parts, fell 0.1% in February and rose 4.2% from February last year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s monthly report, released Wednesday. Non-store sales rose 1% from January and 10.1% year over year.
February’s dip marks the first time since April 2012 that retail sales have fallen three months straight, according to Reuters. February core sales (excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services) rose 0.1% from January’s flat result.
By category: furniture sales fell 0.8% from January and rose 3.3% year over year; electronics and appliance sales fell 0.1% from January and rose 4.5% year over year; department store sales fell 0.9% from January and were flat year over year; and apparel sales rose 0.4% from January and 4.9% year over year.
February’s retail performance was something of a disappointment, especially when including auto sales, considering that economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.3% percent for last month and a 4% year-over-year rise. The year-over-year increase was dramatic, notes Naveen Jaggi, JLL President of Retail, who said that the much improved employment picture in the U.S. played a large part in that.
"Retail sales spiked in February compared to the previous year, in large part to continued momentum in consumer confidence and overall economic strength – particularly in the labor markets," he said in an email to Retail Dive.
But it's not just a tighter job market and rising wages in some areas. There were other factors last month that made this year better for retailers. "[U]nseasonably warm weather payed a role in propelling shoppers out to the stores," he said. "Eight states had a record warm month, with an additional 15 states having a top-10 month in terms of warmer temperatures, according to NOAA. In fact the entire eastern seaboard — which houses major population centers — saw every state with at least a top 10 warmer-than-average February."
The good news is that the momentum is likely to continue in March as Easter drives some sales in the back half of the month, according to Jaggi.