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February retail sales show biggest gain in four months

Sales reflect improved consumer sentiment

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WASHINGTON — U.S. retail sales rose 1% in February to $387.1 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Friday.

This marks the biggest sales gain in four months, the government agency said, with sales also being 8.9% above the year-ago period. Digging deeper, grocery store sales saw a 0.5% gain from January and rose to nearly $41.8 million, while health and personal care stores experienced a 0.3% decline from last month, dropping to $21.4 million.

Although advanced estimates for pharmacies and drug stores are not included in the report, the U.S. Census Bureau noted sales for the sector dropped to $18.9 million from $21 million in December 2010.

Commenting on the advance sales report, the National Retail Federation's president and CEO, Matthew Shay, said the sales reflected improved consumer sentiment as it relates to sales. “Retailers have done a commendable job keeping their inventory levels where they need to be, while still offering attractive promotions for those who are eager to spend,” Shay said. “The big challenge retailers will face in the coming months, however, will be going head to head with high cotton, food and energy prices.”

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