Retail Sales Rebound; Sporting Goods Dips

Retail sales rebounded in January, increasing 1.3 percent seasonally adjusted from December and 3.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said today. The sporting goods segment, however, didn’t fare as well, as those stores were down 6.2 percent year-over-year but up 4.8 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted. Online and other non-store sales were up 6.3 percent year-over-year and up 2.6 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“Retail sales recovered in January after the unexpected drop in December, reinforcing a positive start to 2019,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “American consumers regained confidence as concerns over the government shutdown and stock market volatility faded and trade talks moved in a positive direction. Although some hesitancy is still lingering, it is good to see consumer spending showing traction given the concerns on the minds of American families last month. We expect higher wages and low unemployment to continue to promote consumer confidence in the year ahead.” 

As of January, the three-month moving average was up 2.7 percent over the same period a year ago. The January numbers follow an unexpected revised 0.1 percent drop in December year-over-year. November – the first half of the holiday season – grew 5.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year. NRF does not count October as part of the holiday season, but much holiday shopping has shifted earlier, and October was up 5.7 percent year-over-year.

“Retail sales in December were revised even lower, but these figures remain suspect given the reporting delays caused by the government shutdown,” Kleinhenz added. “The January rebound further calls into question the accuracy and reliability of the December data. The processing of the delayed data is still unclear, and the volatility of the figures reported is difficult to explain at this point.”

The results come as NRF is forecasting that 2019 retail sales will grow between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent to more than $3.8 trillion. The forecast will be monitored and subject to revision as more data is released in the coming months.

Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 2.1 percent year-over-year but down 1.3 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

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