Severe winter weather weighed on US retail sales last month

Severe winter weather weighed on US retail sales last month

US retail sales fell in January, as consumers eased off post-holiday shopping and spending during the beginning of the year, due in part to severe winter weather. 

Retail sales edged down 0.4% on December, according to the latest figures from the US Department of Commerce, which include cars, gasoline and restaurants, but increased 2.6% year-on-year.

Sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores slipped 0.9% month-on-month, but were up 1.2% on January last year. At general merchandise stores, sales dropped 0.09% on December, but climbed 0.2% year-on-year.

Department stores saw sales fall 1.5% on the previous month, with a steeper 5.7% decline year-on-year. For sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores, sales were down 1.4% month-on-month, and fell 2.1% from January last year.

Separate figures from the National Retail Federation (NRF), which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, showed January retail sales were flat on December, but edged up 3% year-on-year.

"Following a solid holiday sales season, it seems that many consumers decided to take a break from the stores and shopping malls this January in an attempt to avoid winter weather," said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

"While the dip in retail sales was somewhat anticipated, it is concerning that both jobless claims came in above projections and that consumer spending was flat in January - it's not the way to kick off a new year."

While NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz added: "Harsh winter weather is masking the performance of the broader economy.

"Extreme temperatures and severe ice and snow are making it increasingly difficult to assess if the retail sales slowdown is temporary or a telling sign of a longer lasting weakness in the consumer-fuelled economy. No one can jump to any solid conclusion until we shovel out of the snow."