Wednesday, February 13, 2008

NRF: Consumers Spending on Essentials

by Bill McBride on 2/13/2008 10:07:00 AM

From the National Retail Federation: Jan. Retail Sales Show Consumers Spending on Essentials

As expected, January retail sales demonstrated that consumers last month were focused on buying necessities more than discretionary items. According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales for January (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose 2.0 percent unadjusted over last year and 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted from December.

January retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted from last month and 4.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“The January numbers are indicative of the issues consumers are facing, including the housing slump, a sluggish employment sector and high energy prices,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “We expect to see marginal improvements in the second half of the year once consumers begin to receive their rebate checks.”
That was the fairly negative take from a major retail group. Others were more positive; from the WSJ: Retail Sales Post Surprise Jump
Retail sales unexpectedly climbed in January, given a boost by demand for cars and gasoline in a positive sign for the economy. ... Retail sales increased by 0.3%, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Sales went down an unrevised 0.4% in December.
These numbers are subject to revisions, but overall this report was stronger than expected.