Retail sales for February were disappointing despite an increase over the previous month.
Worse, January’s drop was revised downward, to 0.6 percent from 0.4 percent, meaning that February’s 0.3 percent increase does not recover the ground lost in January, as the toll from the harsh winter deepened.
“I wouldn’t call it a rebound,” said Richard F. Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial Corp. “The weather is still having an impact.”
General merchandise, electronics and appliance store sales were the weakest sectors while furniture and clothing store sales were among those that showed gains.
Clothing and accessories store sales rose 0.4 percent as shoppers finally left their homes.
“It just picked up now,” said Abdoulaye Altine, a manager at OMG, in midtown Manhattan, which sells jeans and other clothing. Lately, more customers have been visiting the store than in January, Altine said.
Because of an unusually cold winter in much of the country, retail sales declined sharply in December and January.
For this reason, some economists saw in February’s figure a natural recovery from the two previous months.
“If you’re not in a recession you don’t see multiple months of decline,” said Kim Fraser, senior economist at BBVA Compass.
Auto sales — an example of discretionary spending — increased over the previous month, indicating that consumers are returning to the showrooms.
All in all, February’s report was mixed and retailers will probably have to wait until the spring for consumer spending to pick up substantially.
“Everybody is just waiting for the weather to get better,” said James Yoo, manager of New York Elegant Fabrics.