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Retail Sales Beat Expectations Two Months in a Row, According to NRF

For Immediate Release
Kathy Grannis (202)783-7971
grannisk@nrf.com

Retail Sales Beat Expectations Two Months in a Row,
According to NRF
--January Sales See Upward Revision-- 

Washington, March 12, 2009 – Beating analysts’ expectations for a second straight month, February retail sales showed surprising growth. According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales for February (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from January and decreased 5.0 percent unadjusted over last year. Retail industry sales for January were revised up from 0.5 percent growth to 1.4 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month.

February 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) decreased 12.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year and 0.1 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month.  

“While we are seeing some growth in consumer spending, it remains to be seen whether this trend will continue,” said Rosalind Wells, NRF Chief Economist. “Given the state of the economy, NRF is still expecting year-over-year sales declines through the first half of the year with a slight turnaround at the end of 2009.”   

While year-over-year comparisons look grim, month-to-month sales growth was a nice surprise for retailers. Sales at furniture and home furnishing stores grew 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from January but decreased 14.8 percent unadjusted over last year. Electronics and appliance stores sales increased 1.2 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month but decreased 4.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Clothing and clothing accessory stores sales rose a solid 2.8 percent seasonally adjusted from last month but decreased 6.5 percent unadjusted from 2008.  

Sales at sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores also increased 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month but decreased 4.8 percent unadjusted over last year.  

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2008 sales of $4.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com.  

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