Haver Analytics
Haver Analytics
| Mar 15 2023

U.S. Retail Sales Are Mixed in February

  • Fewer motor vehicle sales & lower gasoline prices weigh on spending.
  • Online sales surge again.
  • Sales elsewhere are uneven.

Consumers pulled back spending modestly in February, as overall retail sales fell 0.4% (+5.4% y/y). The decline followed a 3.2% January surge, revised from 3.0% reported last month. The decline matched expectations in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. Sales excluding motor vehicles eased 0.1% (+6.8% y/y) after rising 2.4% in January, revised from 2.3%. Expectations had been for a 0.1% dip. These latest results followed moderate declines in both December & November.

Last month’s sales decline reflected a 1.8% drop (-0.2% y/y) in motor vehicle sales after they surged 7.1% in January. Sales fell sharply in the prior two months. The latest decline compared to a 6.3% weakening in unit vehicle sales which also followed a January surge. Gasoline station sales eased 0.6% (-1.9% Y/Y) as gasoline prices weakened. It was the fourth consecutive monthly decline.

Sales amongst other stores were mixed. Spending in the retail control group, which excludes autos, building materials, gasoline & restaurants, rose 0.5% (7.0% y/y) after strengthening 2.3% in January. Sales here declined in December & November.

Sales of nonstore retailers rose 1.6% (8.5% y/y) last month after a 1.8% increase in January. Electronics and appliance store sales improved 0.3% (-2.8% y/y) after a 6.5% increase. Sales fell in each of the prior eight months. General merchandise store sales improved 0.5% (10.5% y/y) after rising 4.3% in January. However, within that category, department store sales declined 4.0% (+2.5% y/y) after an 18.1% January rise. Also falling were furniture and home furnishing store sales, off 2.5% (+0.1% y/y) after a 5.7% January surge. Apparel sales eased 0.8% (+4.3% y/y) in February following a 2.9% January gain. Sporting goods & hobby shop store sales fell 0.5% (+3.9% y/y) after modest increases in each of the prior four months. Building materials store sales eased 0.1% (+0.6% y/y) after January’s 0.4% gain.

In the nondiscretionary sales categories, health & personal care store sales rose 0.9% (8.0% y/y) after a 3.1% January surge. Food & beverage store sales increased 0.5% last month (5.5% y/y) after two months of moderate decline.

Consumer visits to restaurant & drinking places found them spending 2.2% less in February (+15.3% y/y) after a 5.6% January increase.

Retail Sales data can be found in Haver's USECON database. The expectations figures are from the Action Economics Forecast Survey in AS1REPNA.

  • Prior to joining Haver Analytics in 2000, Mr. Moeller worked as the Economist at Chancellor Capital Management from 1985 to 1999. There, he developed comprehensive economic forecasts and interpreted economic data for equity and fixed income portfolio managers. Also at Chancellor, Mr. Moeller worked as an equity analyst and was responsible for researching and rating companies in the economically sensitive automobile and housing industries for investment in Chancellor’s equity portfolio.   Prior to joining Chancellor, Mr. Moeller was an Economist at Citibank from 1979 to 1984.   He also analyzed pricing behavior in the metals industry for the Council on Wage and Price Stability in Washington, D.C.   In 1999, Mr. Moeller received the award for most accurate forecast from the Forecasters' Club of New York. From 1990 to 1992 he was President of the New York Association for Business Economists.   Mr. Moeller earned an M.B.A. in Finance from Fordham University, where he graduated in 1987. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from George Washington University.

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