RAPAPORT... U.S. department store sales in January slid 0.6 percent year on year to $11.9 billion, according to government figures. Retail trade sales were up 5.5 percent. Total sales for retail, including automobiles and food, in January rose 5.8 percent year on year to $401.4 billion.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimated that January retail industry sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, increased 4 percent unadjusted from January 2011. The group doesn't provide a dollar figure.
NRF's president, Matthew Shay, explained that unseasonably mild weather coupled with gift cards from the Christmas season both helped to keep retailer's busy during what is a traditionally slow month.
Jack Kleinhenz, NRF's chief economist, added, ''A slightly improving labor market with gains in payrolls has lifted consumer confidence in January and corresponds with increasing retail sales. However consumer spending alone will not be enough to sustain economic growth or provide a strong foundation for consistent retail sales and growth. We must see improvements in key economic indicators, such as housing and employment.''
Sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores’ increased 3.4 percent. NRF estimated that sales in sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores increased 3.5 percent year on year, while general merchandise stores’ sales increased 4.7 percent. Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers observed a 10.5 percent increase in sales, while furniture and home furnishing stores reported a 7.9 percent sales increase.