Retail sales last week advanced at their slowest pace of the new year as inclement weather hit the Northeast and New England and department and apparel stores saw weak results.
According to the weekly chain store sales index of The Retail Economist and Goldman Sachs, sales for the week ended on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, rose 1.8 percent over the comparable week in 2014, below the 1.9 percent increase of the prior week and the poorest showing since the 1.1 percent increase registered during the week ended Dec. 13.
On a sequential basis, sales were up 2.3 percent over the prior week, reversing the 2.1 percent decline for the week ended Feb. 7 and above the 1.4 percent increase for the week ended Jan. 31.
Business was strong at dollar stores, wholesale clubs and electronics stores but down from the 2014 week for apparel and non-apparel specialty stores, department stores and office supply stores.
“Although a major snowstorm that hit Boston and the Northeast more generally made national news, and caused consumers in the region to stock up on food and other essentials during the week, weather was relative mild through the South and central parts of the country,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist and principal of The Retail Economist. “With two week of sales during the fiscal month of Feburary tracking weak, it will be difficult with the typical low-volume sales of February to recover from that softness later in this month.
“However,” he added, “the real test will come in March as consumers turn their attention to spring merchandise.”
Even with the inclement weather in the northeast portion of the country, temperatures on average in the U.S. were 5.6 degrees warmer than last year and 1.7 degrees above their long-term average, according to Weather Trends International.
Along with groceries, drug stores were among the outlets to benefit from the stocking-up effect in the Northeast.
Gasoline prices continued their recent upward trajectory but remained nearly one-third lower than a year ago at $2.274, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.