Thinkstock
February Retail Sales Show Strong Year-Over-Year Growth

February Retail Sales Show Strong Year-Over-Year Growth

March 25, 2021
Consumer confidence at its highest level since last March, says NRF, and will " help facilitate a surge in spending, job growth and capital investment in the second half of the year as more Americans are vaccinated."

Despite a monthly slowdown from unusually high numbers in January, retail sales showed considerable year-over-year traction in February, according to the National Retail Federation. 

 "A number of factors contributed to these results, including major snowstorms in the northeast and unprecedented ice storms in the south, but they do not diminish the stimulus-related growth we saw in January or what we expect to see as additional stimulus relief hits consumer bank accounts in the weeks ahead., " said NRF CEO Matthew Shay in a statement.

"Looking forward to the spring and with consumer confidence at its highest level since last March, we remain optimistic that retail will help facilitate a surge in spending, job growth and capital investment in the second half of the year as more Americans are vaccinated and local economies reopen nationwide,” Shay added.

A number of factors contributed to the increase. “ February had winter storms that impacted consumers’ ability to get out and shop, and the IRS’ delay in when it started accepting tax returns pushed back the release of refunds," said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz in a statement. "But increased vaccinations and reductions in restrictions allowed more people to venture out and government stimulus gave them more money to spend. Overall, February’s results confirm that consumers are willing to spend as the virus situation improves and continued government stimulus further strengthens the economic backdrop. With another round of stimulus checks being mailed right now, we expect another large boost in consumer spending over the next few months.”

The U.S. Census Bureau today said last week that overall retail sales in February were down 3% seasonally adjusted from January but up 6.3% year-over-year. That compares with a monthly increase of 7.6% and a yearly gain of 9.5% in January. Despite occasional month-over-month declines, sales have grown year-over-year every month since June, according to Census data.NRF’s calculation of retail sales – which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail – showed February was down 3.4% seasonally adjusted from January but up 7.1% unadjusted year-over-year. That compared with an increase of 7.7 percent month-over-month and an increase of 12.7% year-over-year in January.

NRF’s numbers were up 8.9% unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average. February’s gains come as NRF is forecasting that  2021 retail sales will increase between 6.5% and 8.2% 2 over 2020, for a total between $4.33 trillion and $4.4 trillion.

Retail sales during 2020 increased 6.6% despite the pandemic, beating the previous record growth rate of 6.3% in 2004. February retail sales fell in every category except groceries, which were unchanged, on a month-over-month basis. But sales were up in two-thirds of categories on a year-over-year basis, which provides a better indicator of long-term trends and the state of the economy.

Specifics from key retail sectors include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were down 5.4% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 23.5% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were down 3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 11.4% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 7.5% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 11 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were unchanged month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 7.2% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were down 3.8% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 5.1%t unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores were down 1.3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but up 2.4% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores were down 5.4% month-over-month seasonally adjusted but unchanged unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 1.9% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and down 6.7% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 2.8% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and down 14.9% unadjusted year-over-year.

Latest from Global Supply Chain