The U.S. published preliminary retail sales figures today for the month of February as well as its more detailed sales report for the month of January, which included jewelry store sales. For the month of February, department store sales rose 4.8 percent year on year to $13.42 billion, marking the strongest increase in two years. Advance estimates of total retail and food services sales for February rose 10 percent to $338 billion. Retail trade sales increased 6.3 percent.
In the government’s more detailed report, which lags by two months, found that jewelry store sales increased 4.3 percent year on year in January to $1.72 billion, but that rate of growth was far below the increase of jewelry price inflation for the month. As reported by Rapaport News on February 17, consumer price inflation for jewelry in January set a new record and surged 8.2 percent.
Another monthly report, published by the National Retail Federation (NRF), placed retail industry sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, up 8.6 percent unadjusted year on year in February. The NRF observed that shoppers took advantage of fairly mild winter weather and visited stores for outdoor project needs as well as stocking up on warm-weather apparel, according to NRF’s president, Matthew R. Shay.
The NRF found that retail sales in February were strong at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, and building materials and garden equipment stores.
”While February sales certainly present continued reason for optimism, retailers are paying close attention to rising gasoline prices, which are forcing millions of our customers to spend a significant portion of disposable income filling their gas tanks,” Shay said.
NRF’s chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, added, ”Pent-up demand is turning desires into needs, which is one reason why consumers have begun opening up their wallets. There is no doubt that the economy is on the upswing, certainly compared to six months ago. Stronger-than-expected February sales and an improving labor market paint a bright picture of the U.S. economy, although the impact rising gas prices will have on the economy’s momentum remains unclear.”