Winter weather cripples retail sales

Blaming the weather has reached new heights as severe winter weather cripples retail sales.

Shoppers leveled off post-holiday shopping and spending in the beginning of the year due in part to severe winter weather in much of the country. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), January retail sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, were flat seasonally adjusted month-to-month.

"Harsh winter weather is masking the performance of the broader economy," NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. "Extreme temperatures and severe ice and snow are making it increasingly difficult to assess if the retail sales slowdown is temporary or a telling sign of a longer lasting weakness in the consumer-fueled economy. No one can jump to any solid conclusion until we shovel out of the snow."

Winter storms and arctic air have swept across much of the U.S., repeatedly, during January and February. "Following a solid holiday sales season, it seems that many consumers decided to take a break from the stores and shopping malls this January in an attempt to avoid winter weather," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. "It's not the way to kick off a new year."

Hardest hit were apparel, home goods, sporting goods, health and personal care, and general merchandise stores -- all showed a decrease in sales during January, according to NRF. Building materials and garden equipment got the biggest boost, jumping 1.4 percent seasonally.

Earlier this month, NRF released its annual economic forecast projecting a 4.1 percent increase in retail sales in 2014. In a survey released today from BDO, retail CFOs reveal an even more optimistic outlook, predicting a 5 percent sales growth for retail in 2014.

For more:
-See this NRF press release

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