Home results strong despite retail drop

Don Hogsett, February 18, 2002

Weighed down by sagging car sales, overall U.S. retail sales dipped slightly in January, to $267.9 billion. But excluding the volatile auto market, sales actually turned in a stronger-than-expected performance, rising by 1.2 percent, as consumers shucked off the recession blues and headed out to the malls.

The improvement was broad-based, with most sectors posting gains, the Commerce Department reported.

Furniture and home furnishings continued their strong performance of recent months, posting an increase of 0.4 percent, the rate of growth tapering off somewhat after bigger gains of 1.4 percent in December and 2.6 percent in November. But another big home goods category, electronics and appliances, slumped by 3.6 percent in the post-holiday doldrums.

Department stores, chains and discounters, excluding leased departments, recorded a gain of 2.0 percent.

Despite the broad-based improvement, overall retail activity slipped by 0.1 percent, hampered by slumping auto sales, which declined by 4.3 percent once zero-percent financing and other incentives were suspended. Excluding the on-again, off-again car market, the hefty 1.2 percent gain in sales far outpaced a much smaller 0.3 percent increase expected by economists.

Retail Sales in January (by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Gas stations +5.1%
Building materials & garden supplies +2.9
Clothing & accessories +2.5
Health & personal care +2.3
Dept. stores, chains & discounters +2.0
Non-store retailers +1.7
Grocery stores +0.6
Food & beverage +0.4
Furniture & home furnishings +0.4
Restaurants & bars -6.3%
Car sales -4.3
Electronics & appliances -3.6

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