Small increase in January retail sales indicate 'stable yet fragile economy,' NRF says

Retail group blames political brinkmanship for lackluster economic performance

WASHINGTON — Retail sales were up slightly in January as the increases in payroll taxes and energy prices forced consumers to change spending habits, according to a new report by the National Retail Federation.

According to the NRF, retail sales for the month increased 0.3% compared with December and by 5.4% unadjusted year-over-year. When factoring in non-general merchandise such as automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, those figures were 0.1% and 4.7%, respectively. Health and personal care stores' sales decreased 1% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 0.7% unadjusted year-over-year. General merchandise stores sales increased by 1.1% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and decreased 0.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

"Today's retail sales figures continue to indicate a stable yet fragile economy," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. "Consumers are continuing to hold back on spending just as our economy is held back by political brinkmanship in D.C. The failure to address the critical challenges confronting our economy will continue to dampen consumer confidence, which will in turn mute sales and growth. The economy will continue to limp along until our politicians finally address our tax and spending challenges and put forward a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda."

The NRF released its annual retail sales forecast for this year in late January, estimating that retail industry sales — excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants — will increase 3.4%, while online sales will grow by 9% to 12%.

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