According to the ICSC‐GS consumer tracking survey, business was steady at apparel‐specialty stores, up at grocery stores, but down versus the same week of 2012 for most segments with considerable weakness at drug stores, as weather continued unfavorable for spring seasonal items. Weather Trends International (WTI) said that the average nationwide temperature was 4.0°F colder than last year and 1.3°F colder than its long‐term trend.
"Sales for the month - and final week of the fiscal month - were sluggish as weather curbed the consumers' ability and willingness to shop," said Michael Niemira, ICSC's vice president of research and chief economist. "Given that lingering softness, ICSC Research is trimming its February sales forecast to 2 percent to 2.5 percent -- 50 basis points lower than the previous forecast, when retailers report their monthly sales figures on Thursday, March 7, 2013."
Redbook Research said same-store sales rose 2.2% in the final week of February following a 2.7% gain the prior week. Month-to-date, sales were up 2.6% compared to last year and 1.3% relative to last month.
Redbook expects same-store sales to post a 2.9% gain for the full month compared to last February.
The month closed behind its targets. February sales importance remains circumscribed since it contributes a relatively small proportion of annual sales. Demand was broad based, with early business in spring apparel and other seasonal categories, primarily in the warmer parts of the country, augmenting strength in consumer basics and home goods. Looking forward, March sales growth should benefit from an early Easter compared with a year ago.After posting 10 consecutive weekly increases, with a cumulative rise of 53 cents since mid-December, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that the price of gas fell 2.5 cents to $3.759 for the week ending 3/4. Gas prices are 0.9% lower than at this point a year ago, and with a nearly 10% pullback in crude oil futures over the past month consumers should see more relief at the pump in the coming weeks.
As reported on Friday, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment rebounded last month on an improved job market, despite near all-time lows of confidence in government policy. The Consumer Sentiment Index rose 5.1% to 77.6 in February and sits 3.1% higher than a year ago. The Current Conditions Index improved to 89.0 from 85.0 in January, and is 7.2% above levels from last February, while the Consumer Expectations Index rose 5.4% month-over-month, but is a slight 0.1% below last February.
"Consumer confidence continued to improve in February due to expected gains in employment," said Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist. "These expected job gains have partially offset concerns about higher payroll taxes and the impending reduction in federal spending." He added "Consumers find the political blame-game for policy inaction a very unsatisfactory substitute for a compromise that could improve economic conditions in the near term as well as over the longer term,"