January retail sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, were flat seasonally adjusted month-to-month due in part to severe winter weather in much of the country, according to the National Retail Federation.
“Following a solid holiday sales season, it seems that many consumers decided to take a break from the stores and shopping malls this January in an attempt to avoid winter weather,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “While the dip in retail sales was somewhat anticipated, it is concerning that both jobless claims came in above projections and that consumer spending were flat in January—it’s not the way to kick off a new year.”
January retail sales, released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau, which include categories such as automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants, decreased 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month. In the home improvement sector, building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers stores’ sales increased 1.4 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month.
“Harsh winter weather is masking the performance of the broader economy,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Extreme temperatures and severe ice and snow are making it increasingly difficult to assess if the retail sales slowdown is temporary or a telling sign of a longer lasting weakness in the consumer-fueled economy. No one can jump to any solid conclusion until we shovel out of the snow.”
Earlier this month, NRF released its annual economic forecast projecting a 4.1 percent increase in retail sales in 2014.