US January Retail Sales Showed Strong Gains

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US retail sales powered through Covid-19’s omicron variant, inflation and other challenges to post strong increases in January, the National Retail Federation said.

“January’s numbers show that 2022 is starting very strong for consumers and retailers, especially on the heels of a record holiday season and record sales in 2021,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “While the year ahead has challenges with inflationary pressures, labour shortages, Covid-19 impacts and uncertainty related to international tensions in Russia and China, today’s numbers show that despite these concerns, consumers are spending, and the economy remains in good shape. We are confident that retail sales growth and overall consumer financial health can continue, and current pressures in the economy should be moderated if election-year political pressures don’t result in policy decisions that compound the challenges our economy is already facing.”

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“January sales overcame major headwinds that make the results all the more impressive,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “A triad of forces weighed on consumer behaviour and spending as weather slammed a large portion of the United States, the omicron variant was relentless, and inflation was escalating. On top of that, the enhanced child care tax credit ceased at the end of 2021, impacting millions of families. Despite all that, consumers ramped up spending even after a record-breaking holiday season.”

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The US Census Bureau today said overall retail sales in January were up 3.8% seasonally adjusted from December and up 13% year-over-year. By comparison, December sales were down 2.5% from November but up 16.7% year-over-year. Despite occasional month-over-month declines, sales have grown year-over-year every month since June 2020, according to Census data.

January sales were up in all but two categories on both a monthly and yearly basis, with year-over-year gains led by clothing and building materials stores and online sales. Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 0.7% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 19.1% unadjusted year-over-year.

Online and other non-store sales were up 14.5% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 8.9% unadjusted year-over-year. Furniture and home furnishings sales were up 7.2% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and up 1.5% unadjusted year-over-year. Sporting goods stores were down 3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted and down 0.8% unadjusted year-over-year.

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