A rise in sales at US clothing retailers along with an improving economy kept January retail sales nearly as good as the holiday season’s strong showing – dropping only 0.26% seasonally adjusted from December – and fuelled a healthy 5.4% increase year-over-year, new figures show.
The January numbers, which exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, include a 13.2% rise year-over-year in online and other non-store sales, which were unchanged from December, according to figures from the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores increased 3.1% year-over-year and up 1.2% from December seasonally adjusted, while sporting goods stores showed the only year-over-year decrease, down 5.9% and also down 0.8% from December seasonally adjusted.
The figures follow 5.1% unadjusted year-over-year growth in holiday sales during November and December, which was revised down slightly yesterday (14 February) from the 5.5% initially reported.
December was down 0.1% from November seasonally adjusted but up 3.8% year-over-year. The three-month year-over-year moving average is at 5.2%.
“These numbers reinforce a positive start to 2018 that reflects ongoing consumer optimism brought about by solid economic fundamentals,” says 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, labour 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.”
While some observers are spinning this as a disappointing month, Kleinhenz argues “you’ve got to keep in mind that we’re coming off one of the strongest holiday seasons in years”.
He adds: “It’s also difficult to draw conclusions from month-to-month changes because of the huge seasonal-adjustment factors.”
NRF’s numbers are based on data from the US Census Bureau, which reported this week that overall January sales – including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – were down 0.3% seasonally adjusted from December but up 5% year-over-year.
The results come as NRF is forecasting that 2018 retail sales will grow between 3.8% and 4.4% over 2017.