Retail sales decline during January

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Retail sales decline during January

By Marianne Wilson - 02/15/2018
Retail sales fell 0.26% in January, the biggest decline in 11 months, but increased 5.4% year-over year, according to the National Retail Federation. (The NRF numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.)

The January numbers follow 5.1% unadjusted year-over-year growth in holiday sales during November and December, which was revised down slightly today from the 5.5% initially reported. December was revised to be down 0.1% from November seasonally adjusted.

“These numbers reinforce a positive start to 2018 that reflects ongoing consumer optimism brought about by solid economic fundamentals,” NRF chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Some observers are spinning this as a disappointing month, but you’ve got to keep in mind that we’re coming off one of the strongest holiday seasons in years. It’s also difficult to draw conclusions from month-to-month changes because of the huge seasonal-adjustment factors.”

The January results comes as NRF is forecasting that 2018 retail sales will increase between 3.8% and 4.4% over 2017.

Most economists were not worried by the January dip and noted that the fundamentals are still in place for steady retail growth.

“With jobs growth still strong, consumer confidence at an unusually high level and the recent tax cuts providing a one-off boost to disposable incomes this month, the near-term prospects for consumer spending remain fairly bright,” Andrew Hunter, U.S. economist for Capital Economics, told the AP.

Specifics from key retail sectors during January include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 13.2% year-over-year and were unchanged from December.

  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 6.6% year-over-year but down 0.4% from December seasonally adjusted.

  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 6% year-over-year but down 2.4% from December seasonally adjusted.

  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 3.1% year-over-year and up 1.2% from December seasonally adjusted.

  • General merchandise stores were up 3% year-over-year and up 0.2% from December seasonally adjusted.

  • Electronics and appliance stores were up 2.9% year-over-year and up 0.5% from December seasonally adjusted.

  • Health and personal care stores were up 1.8% year-over-year but down 1.2% from December seasonally adjusted.

  • Sporting goods stores showed the only year-over-year decrease, down 5.9% and also down 0.8% from December seasonally adjusted.