According to figures released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce, retail sales exceeded expectations despite headwinds caused by extreme weather in the Northeast and a continued adjustment to higher payroll taxes.
Monthly retail sales figures for February totaled $421.4 billion, an increase of 1.1 percent over the previous month, and 4.6 percent over February 2012.
“While gasoline prices helped lift the overall sales in February, core retail sales were also strong and demonstrate the resilience of consumers in a slowly recovering economy,” said RILA President Sandy Kennedy. “Recognizing the continued challenges consumers face, retailers remain nimble, adjusting marketing, promotions and product assortments to earn their share of consumer spending.”
In addition to gasoline sales, home improvement and grocery retailers saw substantial gains in February, while sales at department stores, sporting goods retailers and home furnishing retailers slipped over the previous month.
The February retail sales gains come as retailers draw closer to action on federal legislation to level the playing field between Main Street retailers and their online-only competitors. Non-store retailers were up 1.6 from January 2013 and 15.7 percent February of last year as many continue to exploit a loophole that allows them to avoid collecting the state sales tax due on every sale made. This special treatment gives them a perceived price advantage over brick and mortar stores, in some states as high as ten percent.
Bipartisan legislation, known as the Marketplace Fairness Act, under consideration in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, is gaining momentum and is likely to receive consideration soon as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle argue that government should stop distorting the marketplace and treat all retailers the same, whether they are online or on Main Street.
RILA is the trade association of the worlds’ largest and most innovative retail companies. RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers domestically and abroad.