February retail sales climb in most categories


Major retailers posted a 4.2% increase in sales. The gain, which beat expectations of a 3.6% rise, was spread across all major retail categories, including discounters, department stores, apparel sellers and teen clothing chains.

Despite winter storms and rising gas prices, the retail market shows retail sales improved significantly in the month of February. Sales improvements were recorded in categories ranging from clothing to furniture.

The strong sales performance in February was driven by store promotions, better weather and demand for spring merchandise.

With unemployment claims falling, “There must be a lot of new jobs getting created out there,” said Chris Rupkey, an economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York.

These sales surges are going to make more jobs and will hopefully help with the unemployment rate.

The country’s high unemployment rate has been the last major problem hammering retail sales, analysts said. An improvement could strengthen the retail sector even more.

Figures released by MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse show shoppers spent more in most categories in February. Clothing sales rose 6 percent. Furniture sales rose 4 percent — the fourth consecutive increase for that category, one of the hardest hit during the recession.

These strong retail improvements have been slowly climbing for the last several months, adding retail jobs and a sign of positive economic growth in the country.

Sales of luxury items excluding jewelry rose 1.7 percent. Online sales rose 13.2 percent, continuing to outpace sales in stores.

More details on February spending will come Thursday when major retailers, including Target Corp. and Macy’s Inc., report their revenue at stores open at least a year.

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