February sales at CE and appliance stores rose 0.9 percent from January but slipped 2.2 percent year over year to $8.4 billion, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Commerce Department.
In contrast, total retail sales, excluding food service and car and car-parts dealers, increased 9.5 percent year over year on strength in the home-improvement channel, where sales rose 10.9 percent last month.
The figures, based on early reports from a small sampling of retailers, are adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading day differences, but not for price changes.
Matthew Shay, president/CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), an industry trade group, said, "Retailers have done a commendable job keeping their inventory levels where they need to be, while still offering attractive promotions for those who are eager to spend."
Shay said high energy and food prices will be a "big challenge" for retailers in the coming months, although NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said it's too soon to gauge the impact spiking gasoline prices will have on consumers this spring.