Retail sales down in January

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Retail sales down in January

By Gina Acosta - 02/14/2018

U.S. retail sales fell in January after one of the strongest holiday seasons in years, suggesting consumer spending is on a slower track for the first quarter.

According to the National Retail Federation, sales at U.S. retailers fell by 0.3% in January — the biggest drop in almost a year — chiefly due to declines at auto dealers and home centers. 

The January numbers follow 5.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year growth in holiday sales during November and December, which was revised down slightly today from the 5.5 percent initially reported. December was down 0.1 percent from November seasonally adjusted but up 3.8 percent year-over-year. The three-month year-over-year moving average is at 5.2 percent.

The results comes as NRF is forecasting that 2018 retail sales will grow between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent over 2017.

“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. “Consumer spending continues to grow at a steady pace and is showing year-over-year increases across almost all retail sectors. Employment has increased, labor markets are tightening and wage growth is on the rise. Stock market headlines are a concern for some shoppers, but households have the wherewithal to spend, and the tax cuts consumers are now seeing in their paychecks will bring an added boost. 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.”

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported today that overall January sales – including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – were down 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from December but up 5 percent year-over-year.

Specifics from key retail sectors during January include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 13.2 percent year-over-year and were unchanged from December.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 6.6 percent year-over-year but down 0.4 percent from December seasonally adjusted.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 6 percent year-over-year but down 2.4 percent from December seasonally adjusted.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 3.1 percent year-over-year and up 1.2 percent from December seasonally adjusted.
  • General merchandise stores were up 3 percent year-over-year and up 0.2 percent from December seasonally adjusted.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were up 2.9 percent year-over-year and up 0.5 percent from December seasonally adjusted.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 1.8 percent year-over-year but down 1.2 percent from December seasonally adjusted.
  • Sporting goods stores showed the only year-over-year decrease, down 5.9 percent and also down 0.8 percent from December seasonally adjusted.


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