Washington - January
sales for CE and appliance retailers edged down 0.6 percent year-over-year to
$8.2 billion, according to the latest monthly tallies from the U.S. Commerce
January sales were also
flat from December, rising 0.5 percent month-over-month, preliminary estimates
By comparison, sales for
online and other direct-to-consumer merchants rose 4.9 percent over January
2011, while total retail sales, excluding automotive but including restaurants,
increased 5.5 percent.
Matthew Shay, president/CEO
of the National Retail Federation (NRF), an industry trade group, attributed
January's generally solid sales to "millions of shoppers with gift cards burning
holes in their pockets," along with unseasonably warm weather. He noted that
January is a traditionally slower sales month for retailers.
But NRF chief economist
Jack Kleinhenz warned that "Consumer spending alone will not be enough to
sustain economic growth or provide a strong foundation for consistent retail
sales and growth. We must see improvements in key economic indicators, such as
housing and employment."
Based on the Commerce
Department's reported 8 percent gain in January sales for the home improvement
channel, a housing recovery may already be percolating, argued Credit Suisse
retail analyst Gary Balter. "We believe that momentum reflects modestly
improving housing fundamentals, which [are] lifting demand across the segment,"
he wrote in a research note.