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February Retail Sales Disappoint, As Winter Chill Cooled Shopper Spending

The harsh winter kept many shoppers out of stores in February, and just as temperatures dropped, so did retail sales, according to the National Retail Federation.

Excluding automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, February retail sales slipped 0.2% on a seasonally adjusted, month-to-month basis.

“Big picture, we thought retail sales should have been a little bit stronger, they felt like a disappointment, because of the recent [economic] momentum,” Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the NRF, told Forbes.

“We had a number of people being employed, more than one million jobs were added in the last two or three months,” which typically means more income and spending, he said.

However “the weather was a major deterrent to spending in February.” Indeed, frigid weather “was very widespread, reaching all the way down to Florida.”

But there were some bright spots.

•February sales at sporting goods, hobby, and book and music stores rose 2.3% from January, and increased 3.3% year-over-year.

Sporting goods retailers, which sell winter wear, likely benefited from the cold spell, Kleinhenz said.

Barbra Thau