U.S. retail sales continue to rise through February

WASHINGTON — Retail sales continue to rise for 2012 as the U.S. Census Bureau reported results of February sales on Tuesday.

U.S. retail and food services sales for February, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $407.8 billion, an increase of 1.1% from the previous month and 6.5% above the year-ago period. Retail trade sales were up 1.1% from last month and 6.3% above last year.

Looking across retail categories, adjusted sales at grocery stores increased 0.3% to roughly $52.3 billion. Health and personal care stores held steady at $23.2 billion. Retail sales for drug stores and pharmacies were not recorded; however, sales experienced a slight gain from December to January (about $19.3 billion).

Commenting on the results, the National Retail Federation said that demand is turning wants into needs, which has helped the economy experience an upswing, despite the uncertainty of how gas prices will influence spending in the coming months.

“Though February is typically a month for consumers to stay home and wait for spring, shoppers this year took advantage of mild weather to get a head start on outdoor projects and warm weather apparel,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “While February sales certainly present continued reason for optimism, retailers are paying close attention to rising gasoline prices, which are forcing millions of our customers to spend a significant portion of disposable income filling their gas tanks.”