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US Retail Sales Decrease 3 Percent in February

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Commerce Department has reported that retail sales decreased 3 percent in February, following a robust showing in January. According to CNBC, economists surveyed by Reuters expected February retail sales to only drop 0.5 percent in light of inclement weather around the country. The Commerce Department also revised January retail sales total up from 5.3 percent to 7.6 percent.

Nonstore retailers were up 25.9 percent from February 2020, while food services and drinking places were down 17 percent from a year ago. Overall retail sales were up 6.3 percent above this time last year.

Other types of businesses were also down in the month of February. Gas stations were down 3.5 percent, motor vehicle and parts dealers were down 4.2 percent, furniture and home stores were down 3.8 percent and electronics and appliance stores were down 1.9 percent.

According to The Wall Street Journal, February is typically a slow month for retailers as stores prepare for the spring season and Easter. The article also states that economists are forecasting for retail sales to be higher in the coming months because of warmer weather and stimulus checks. As part of the most recent stimulus package, some Americans have already received around $1,400 in stimulus money. Additionally, COVID-19 cases have hit a low, and President Joe Biden expects all Americans to be able to get the vaccine by May. The NRF reported that retail sales in February fell in every category except groceries, which were unchanged, on a month-over-month basis.

“After January’s strong showing, we expected some payback in the form of lower figures in February by comparison,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Despite that, it’s hard to see this as a setback when you consider how large the year-over-year gains are and that sales are well above pre-pandemic levels. February had winter storms that impacted consumers’ ability to get out and shop, and the IRS’ delay in when it started accepting tax returns pushed back the release of refunds. But increased vaccinations and reductions in restrictions allowed more people to venture out and government stimulus gave them more money to spend.”

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