Average temperatures more than 10 degrees below their long-term average kept retail sales last week at levels flat with the prior week and 1.8 percent above their 2014 levels.
According to the weekly chain-store sales index of The Retail Economist LLC and Goldman Sachs, cold temperatures and icy mixtures of snow, sleet and freezing rain in much of the east helped sales at discount, dollar and drug stores, with non-apparel specialty and grocery stores also enjoying better than average results.
However, business in the seven days ended Saturday suffered at department, furniture, office supply, online-only, furniture and electronics stores.
Michael Niemira, chief economist and principal of The Retail Economist, noted that “everyday” items, such as those sold at drug and grocery stores, performed better than those propelled by more discretionary spending.
“With this final week of the fiscal month of February, monthly sales were softer relative to recent trends over the past year,” Niemira said, “but little should be read into that since the month typically has the second lowest sales volume of the year behind January and often can be impacted by adverse weather that tends to curb consumer spending.”
Sales in the prior week, ended Feb. 21, were up 2.1 percent from the 2014 week and down 0.2 percent from the week ended Feb. 14.
Weather Trends International reported that the average temperature nationwide last week was 5.2 degrees colder than last year and 11.9 degrees below its long-term average. WTI said that “several Arctic fronts in the East helped to make this the coldest end to February in more than 24 years, a positive for winter clearance, car batteries and hand and body lotions.”
It was also the “snowiest end to February” in the South Central and Southeast states in more than 24 years.
Gasoline prices rose again but remained 28.9 percent below their levels a year ago.
Among the small sample of publicly held retailers scheduled to report comparable sales on Thursday, the median increase is expected to be 1.5 to 2.5 percent compared to a 2.2 percent increase in February 2014.