Core retail sales rise in January in every category

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
woman with shopping bag
Retail sales in January increased 1.5% from December.

Retail sales rebounded in January amid a pick-up in post-holiday spending.

Retail sales in January were up 1.5% from December and increased 4.8% year-over-year, according to the National Retail Federation, whose calculation excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail.  In December, sales were down 0.5% month over month.

January’s results follow a 5.1% year-over-year increase in combined November-December holiday sales to $934.7 billion. Total 2022 retail sales as calculated by NRF grew 7% to $4.9 trillion.

Sales in January rose month-over-month in every category, led by furniture and home furnishings stores, electronics and appliance stores, and general merchandise stores.

"Today's strong January retail sales report underscores continuing consumer resilience,” said Tom McGee, CEO, ICSC. “As inflation slows, the labor market remains strong, and consumers indicate a continued willingness to spend, particularly on dining and other experiences, we expect sales growth to continue throughout the year."

Overall retail sales in January as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau were up 3% from December. Sales at restaurants and bars jumped 7.2% in January, the biggest increase in 22 months.  Auto and parts dealers increased 5.9%. On a year-over-year basis, total  sales increased 6.4%.

“Consumer spending clearly picked up after the holidays,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Sales were helped along by job and wage growth, slightly lower inflation and unusually warm and dry weather that preceded February’s record cold.”

A large cost-of-living adjustment gave Social Security beneficiaries more money to spend, and many consumers were still drawing on savings built up during the pandemic, Kleinhenz added.

“January made up for the softer pattern of spending in December that came after early shopping pulled holiday spending forward this past fall,” he said.

Specifics from key sectors for January month-over-month sales are below:

  • Sporting goods stores were up 0.2%.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 2.5%.
  • Online and other non-store sales were up 1.3%.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 0.1%.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 1.9%.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 4.4%.
  • General merchandise stores were up 3.2%.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 0.3%.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were up 3.5%.

NRF will release its 2023 retail sales forecast as part of its State of Retail and the Consumer event on March 29.

“Despite inflationary headwinds, January retail sales show the resiliency of consumers in how they manage their budgets and make decisions on how, when and where to spend their hard-earned dollars,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. 

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