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Published
Feb 18, 2021
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U.S. retail sales show strong signs of recovery in January

Published
Feb 18, 2021

Following a difficult year, during which retailers had to adapt to the challenges of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, U.S. retail sales have made solid progress in January, according to a new report from the National Retail Foundation (NRF).


U.S. clothing and accessories sales rose 5% from December to January - Photo: Shutterstock


NRF’s report, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants in order to focus on core retail, highlighted that national retail sales in January increased 5.9% seasonally adjusted from December. Compared to January 2020, sales were up 10.7% year over year.
 
These figures compared to a month-over-month decrease of 2.2% in December’s sales, which represented a 7.9% year-over-year increase. On a three-month moving average, NRF’s numbers for January reflected an unadjusted increase of 8.7% increase.

As has become usual during the pandemic, online and other non-store sales led the retail sector’s growth in January, rising 11% month-over-month on a seasonally adjusted basis and 22.1% year over year.
 
Sporting goods, a category that has proved to be resilient throughout the health crisis, also saw strong growth, experiencing increases of 8% month over month and 22% year over year.
 
Elsewhere, with consumers spending more time at home, sales of building materials, garden supplies, furniture, home furnishings and electronics all made encouraging progress as well.
 
The building materials and garden supplies category experienced a 4.6% month-over-month increase in sales and a 13.7% rise year over year. Growth was 12%, month over month, in the furniture and home furnishing category, and 9.3% year over year.
 
Electronics and appliance stores saw a 14.7% month-over-month rise and a 4.1% year-over-year increase.
 
Sales of clothing and accessories did not make such strong progress, but still performed well. The category saw rises of 5% month over month and 11.3% year over year. Growth in the health and personal care category, however, was at the lower end of the scale, coming to 1.3% month over month, and 3.3% year over year.
 
“January’s retail sales numbers reflect a very strong start for consumers and retailers as we look ahead to a critical year curbing the global pandemic and strengthening our economic recovery,” commented NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay in a release.
 
“Consumers and the economy as a whole remain in good shape despite unprecedented adversity over the past year, and congressional action has been a lifeline for households and businesses disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” he added.
 
According to NRF, both government stimulus checks and increased consumer confidence related to the availability of Covid-19 vaccines have contributed to the positive trends in the retail sector in January.
 
The growth also builds on the momentum seen over the November-December holiday period, when NRF calculated that sales rose 8% to a record $787.1 billion. According to the organization, full-year 2020 retail sales rose 6.7% compared to 2019.

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