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February retail sales up 1.1%, exceeding expectations


New York -- Retail spending in the United States rose a better-than-expected 1.1% in February, the highest increase since September, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Sales, excluding gasoline, building materials and autos, rose 0.4%. Industry experts said the rise indicates that consumer spending is holding up even in the face of the higher payroll tax.

“While gasoline prices helped lift the overall sales in February, core retail sales were also strong and demonstrate the resilience of consumers in a slowly recovering economy,” said RILA president Sandy Kennedy. “Recognizing the continued challenges consumers face, retailers remain nimble, adjusting marketing, promotions and product assortments to earn their share of consumer spending.”

In addition to gasoline sales, home improvement and grocery retailers saw substantial gains in February, while sales at department stores, sporting goods retailers and home furnishing retailers slipped over the previous month.

Spending increased 0.2% at apparel stores, and 0.5% at general merchandise stores, the most in almost a year. Non-store retailers saw a 1.6%.

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