Byline: Carol Emert

WASHINGTON — Sales at department stores, general merchants and apparel specialty stores rebounded in February, according to seasonally adjusted data from the Commerce Department released Wednesday.
The statistics echoed the upbeat February results reported by individual retailers and had some economists talking about a possible change in climate for the sector. Carl Steidtmann, chief economist with Management Horizons, retail consulting arm of Price Waterhouse, said it could indicate the start of a turnaround. “This shows retailing, and particularly apparel retailing, is off to a pretty good start this year.”
Donald Ratajczak, director of Georgia State University’s Economic Forecasting Center, agreed February could signal better times but warned against reading too much into it: “Obviously at some point we’ll see a turnaround….but I’d be very cautious about one month, especially this month, which does have snapback in it.”
Sales at general merchandisers — including discount, department and variety stores — rose 2.3 percent in February from January and 5.1 percent from February 1995. Department stores rose 2.4 percent for the month and 5.9 percent in the year. Specialty stores rose 1.2 percent for the month and 2.1 percent from 1995.

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