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Retail Sales Achieve Important Growth Milestone

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 3/15/2012

In February, retail sales grew for the twentieth consecutive month, recording an 8.6% gain over sales at this time last year.

The National Retail Federation is reporting that February marked the twentieth consecutive month of growth in the nation's retail sector as shoppers spent 8.6% more on retail products than in February 2010.

Retail Sales Trend

Although a weak 2010 retail sector may be partially to blame for stronger-than-expected retail gains, experts cite unseasonably warm temperatures as a contributing factor in February's robust sales totals.

"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.

A portion of current retail transactions may also represent purchasing decisions that were delayed during the economic downturn. As the economy improves, consumers are becoming more willing to buy the products and services they put off as recently as a year ago.

"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.

Still, both Shay and Kleinhenz warn that rising fuel prices could seriously jeopardize the economic recovery and sustained growth in the retail sector. Shay adds, "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."

With all eyes on the pump, only time will tell whether the current period of sustained retail growth will continue throughout 2012 or come to a grinding halt thanks to rising energy costs and other forces competing for consumers' income.

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