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January was hot for retailers


Retail sales sizzled in January, beating expectations. Even the struggling department store sector managed to beat the odds.

Retail sales, excluding automobiles and gasoline, grew 0.4% in January, according to the National Retail Federation. (The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants)

“The healthy monthly gain was driven by January’s strong payroll gains, retail employment gains and business sentiment,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “We haven’t seen strong January growth in several years, which indicates that consumers are increasing their spending and remain the leading driver of the economy.”

Every major retail sector tracked by the NRF reported higher sales compared to the previous month, with the exception of furniture/home furnishings stores, whose sales were flat.

Sales at electronics and appliances stores rose 1.6% the biggest increase in a year and a half.

Sales at clothing stores increased 1.0%, the largest rise in nearly a year. Department store sales climbed 1.2%, the biggest increase since December 2015.

Sporting goods stores’ sales increased 1.8%, and sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.7%.

Despite the nearly across-the-board increases, Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, sounded a somewhat cautious note.

“We believe that the year ahead will be a reasonable one for retail, and nothing in this month’s numbers changes that assessment,” he said. “However, growth will undoubtedly be variable across 2017, and it remains insufficient to benefit all players.”

The environment will continue to be one of winners and losers.
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