Market Overview

January Retail Sales Continue Strong After Holidays, Up 5.4 Percent over Last Year

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An improving economy kept January retail sales nearly as good as the
holiday season's strong showing – dropping only 0.26 percent seasonally
adjusted from December – and fueled a healthy 5.4 percent increase
year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said today. The numbers
exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

"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," Kleinhenz said. "It's also difficult to draw
conclusions from month-to-month changes because of the huge
seasonal-adjustment factors."

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.

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.

NRF is the world's largest retail trade association, representing
discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main
Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet
retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is
the nation's largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four
U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to
annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation's economy.

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