January retail sales grew 3.8%

A variety of retail sectors helped boost sales at the start of the new year, according to the National Retail Federation. Retail industry sales for January (excluding automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose 3.8% over last year and increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted over December.

“Consumers braved Old Man Winter last month to spend gift cards and stock up on clearance merchandise,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “Especially given very difficult year-to-year comparisons, January’s sales show that consumers still have the power to spend.”

A variety of retail categories saw strong growth last month. Sales at general merchandise stores rose 0.9% seasonally adjusted from the prior month and 6.1% over a year ago. Clothing and accessories stores saw gains, with sales rising 1.8% adjusted from December and 2.1% over last year.

NRF has broadened its definition of “retail sales” to include food and beverage stores, building materials, 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.