shopping bagsWASHINGTON, D.C., March 13, 2012 – With a spring in their step, retailers marked 20 consecutive months of sustained year-over-year retail sales growth in February as unseasonably warm temperatures and comparisons with weak sales in 2011 resulted in stronger-than-expected increases.

According to the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, February retail industry sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted from January, and 8.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Though February is typically a month for consumers to stay home and wait for spring, shoppers this year took advantage of mild weather to get a head start on outdoor projects and warm-weather apparel,” NRF President and CEO Matthew R. Shay said.

“While February sales certainly present continued reason for optimism, retailers are paying close attention to rising gasoline prices, which are forcing millions of our customers to spend a significant portion of disposable income filling their gas tanks.”

February retail sales, released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce, showed total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 1.1 percent adjusted month-to-month and 10.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year. NRF continues to forecast retail industry sales will rise 3.4 percent in 2012 to $2.53 trillion.

“Pent-up demand is turning desires into needs, which is one reason why consumers have begun opening up their wallets,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “There is no doubt that the economy is on the upswing, certainly compared to six months ago. Stronger-than-expected February sales and an improving labor market paint a bright picture of the U.S. economy, although the impact rising gas prices will have on the economy’s momentum remains unclear.”


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