Home outpaces overall retail sales

Don Hogsett, March 25, 2002

Despite a persistently weak retail environment and broad-based uncertainty about the economic and jobs outlook, American consumers kept spending money to dress up their homes last month, the Commerce Department reported, and sales of home-related goods dramatically outpaced spending in other retail channels.

While overall retail sales — excluding the highly volatile auto sales — edged up a mingy 0.2 percent in February, sales in the nation's furniture and home furnishings outlets jumped up by 1.4 percent over January levels. On a year-over-year basis, home sales raced ahead by 5.8 percent, making it one of the stand-out categories in all of U.S. retailing.

Another home-related category, electronics and appliances, zoomed up as well in February, with sales advancing by 1.1 percent. Propelled in part by strong sales of DVD players, sales in the electronics channel have shot up by 8.4 percent from year-before levels.

Another segment of home — home improvement and garden stores — fared somewhat less well, however, as consumers opted to buy rather than do it themselves.

Big-ticket auto sales advanced a modest 0.4 percent, without the help of the zero-interest-financing deals that had propped up the market earlier. And suffering from a mild case of the post-holiday blahs, apparel sales slipped back by 0.1 percent.

Retail Sales in February (by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Furniture & home furnishings +1.5%
Electronics & appliance stores +1.1
Restaurants & bars +1.1
Car sales +0.4
Non-store retailers +0.3
Gas stations +0.0
Building materials & garden supplies -0.4%
Grocery stores -0.3
Dept. stores, chains & discounters -0.3
Food & beverage stores -0.2
Health & personal care stores -0.1
Clothing & accessories -0.1

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