Retail sales have case of the blahs after uninspired February

Retail sales saw mild growth in February amid bad weather and economic worries.
(Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

Americans went about their shopping with a “meh” attitude in February, fretting about delayed tax refunds and higher payroll taxes while giving retailers a middling boost in sales.

Three separate measures of same-store sales at locations open at least a year showed revenue dampened by economic factors such as higher gas prices, concerns about the sequester and still-high unemployment.

There was also the issue of “very unfavorable weather,” including blizzard conditions on the East Coast, according to Ken Perkins, who puts out one set of data through Retail Metrics Inc.

He found that sales were up 1.9%, below forecasts for a 2.5% bump. Stripping out drug stores such as Walgreens and Rite Aid, which both missed expectations, the gauge was up 4.2%.


Discounters such as Costco and PriceMart had the best month, with sales up 5.8%, Perkins said. Teen names such as Zumiez and Buckle slipped the most, tanking 4.6%.

The monthly reports, however, have become more a divining rod for retail health than a scientific prognosis.

A metric from Thomson Reuters included 18 retailers in January. Last month, as chains such as Macy’s Inc. and Target Corp. stopped reporting their figures, the list shrank to 13.

Thomson Reuters said retail sales so far rose a tepid 1.7% in February, or 3.8% without the drug stores.

Earlier this week, the International Council of Shopping Centers predicted that its own measure of sales would rise a weak 1.8% “as weather curbed the consumers’ ability and willingness to shop. The group will announce its data later today.

Final numbers will be released after Gap Inc. announces its earnings.


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