Retail sales slip in Jan.

Don Hogsett, February 17, 2003

Hobbled by plunging car sales, U.S. retail sales slipped by 1.1 percent in January, the Commerce Department reported.

Auto sales slumped by 7.5 percent in January, their deepest slide since November 2001.

But excluding the highly volatile auto sector — with wide swings from rebates and zero-percent financing promotions — retail sales turned in their strongest performance in more than two years, climbing by 1.3 percent.

Pulling out the weak car sales, retail sales registered their biggest one-month gain since September 2000, and easily sailed past expectations of a much smaller 0.5 percent increase. Once past sagging auto returns, retail sales got a big lift from strong results at building material and garden supply stores, up 2.9 percent, and food and beverage stores, up 2.6. A big jump in prices at the pump pushed gas station sales up by 2.6 percent. Sales at health and personal care stores rose a solid 1.1 percent.

Once past the holidays and gift-giving season, apparel sales inched up just 0.3 percent, following a stronger gain of 0.8 percent the month before.

Despite the chilly weather, or perhaps because of it, Americans warmed up at restaurants and bars during January, pushing sales in eating and drinking places up a solid 1.1 percent.

After reporting solid gains over the holiday season, sales in home goods channels subsided in January, the Commerce Department reported. Sales in furniture and home furnishings stores fell by 1.3 percent, and electronics and appliances retailers were hit even harder, down 1.4 percent.

Retail Sales in January
by channel
Home channels lose ground after strong holiday sales

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Building material & garden supplies +2.9
Gas stations +2.7
Food & beverage stores +2.6
Health & personal care +1.1
Restaurants & bars +1.1
Clothing & accessories +0.3
Sporting goods, books & music +0.3
Auto sales -8.2
Electronics & appliances -1.4
Furniture & home furnishings- -1.3
Non-store retailers -0.4
Department stores -0.1

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