Retail Sales Beat Forecast in January
Good news for the retail industry — excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales increased 0.4 percent in January, above the 0.1 percent economists expected. Consumers spent freely across almost all categories as sales rose 1 percent at clothing shops, 1.8 percent at sporting good stores, 1.6 percent at electronics outlets, 1.2 percent at department stores, 0.7 percent at health and personal care stores, and 1.4 percent at restaurants and bars. The December sales figure was also revised from 0.6 percent to 1 percent, which is very encouraging for retailers. Compared to January of last year, retail sales were up 5.6 percent.
Total Retail’s Take: January’s solid growth supports economists’ predictions that economic growth will accelerate in the first quarter. The increase in consumer spending is being attributed to a tightened labor market, which is gradually boosting wage growth and reducing debt. The Federal Reserve is likely to analyze these reported numbers as it assesses the U.S. economy’s strength ahead of a possible interest rate increase in March. But all in all, some good news is most certainly welcome by retailers.