February retail sales rose 4%

Retail industry sales for February (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose a solid 4.4% over last year and increased 0.3% seasonally adjusted over January, the National Retail Federation reports.

“February’s sales were especially robust given the strong comparisons from a year ago and the persistent dreary weather last month,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “Consumers were motivated to spend on the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day, and holiday gift cards are continuing to trickle in, which is improving some retailers’ first quarter performance.” Combined, the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day spending accounted for $18.75 billion in spending last month.

February retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) rose 0.5% seasonally adjusted from January and increased 5.6% unadjusted year-over-year.

Most retail categories experienced growth last month. Super Bowl spending spurred sales at electronics and appliance stores, whose sales rose 1.6% seasonally adjusted from January and 4.2% over a year ago. Furniture and home furnishings stores also saw growth, with sales rising 0.7% from the prior month and 3.3% over last February. Additionally, clothing stores and clothing accessories stores (which include jewelry stores, a popular Valentine’s Day destination) saw gains of 1.1% from January and 2.9% over last year.

NRF has broadened its definition of “retail sales” to include food and beverage stores, building materials and garden equipment stores, health and personal care stores, and miscellaneous retailers including florists and gift shops. NRF had previously only monitored sales at general merchandise stores, clothing and clothing accessories stores, furniture and home furnishings stores, electronics and appliances stores, and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores. NRF will release a revised historical retail analysis and forecast at the beginning of the second quarter.