Retail sales edge up in January; clothing sales take a hit

Marianne Wilson
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woman shopping for jeans

Consumer spending remained steady in January amid unseasonably mild weather, but not all retail sectors benefitted. 

Retail sales in January inched up 0.2% seasonally adjusted over December and were up 2.7% unadjusted year-over-year, according to the National Retail Federation. (The NRF numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.)

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said that overall January sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were up 0.3% seasonally adjusted from December and up 4.4% unadjusted year-over-year. 

“January’s retail sales results reflect a confident consumer supported by solid wage growth and job gains,” stated NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “While the business sector continues to weigh significant uncertainties, consumers are providing staying power for U.S. economic growth. We are starting the year on a strong footing.”

Looking at key retail sectors, sales at clothing and clothing accessory stores fell 3.1% in January (and 0.7% year-over-year), the biggest decline since March 2009. Electronics and appliance store sales were down 0.5% in January and 2.9% year-over-year. 

Specifics from all the key retail sectors for January month-over-month seasonally adjusted sales include:

•    Online and other non-store sales were up 0.3%;
•    General merchandise stores were up 0.5%;
•    Grocery and beverage stores were up 0.2%;
•    Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 0.6%
•    Building materials and garden supply stores were up 2.1%
•    Sporting goods stores were up 0.1 %;
•    Health and personal care stores were down 0.4%;
•    Clothing  and clothing accessory stores were down 3.1%; and 
•    Electronics and appliance store sales were down 0.5%.