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Feb. CE/Majap Dealer Sales Slip 1.4%

Washington – February
sales for CE and appliance dealers fell 1.4 percent to $8.3 billion year over year,
the Commerce Department reported this morning.

But sales for the
sector climbed 1 percent over January, the agency’s monthly retail sales
estimates show.

By comparison,
total retail sales excluding food and auto rose 6.3 percent to $364.4 billion
last month over February 2011.

“Pent-up demand is
turning desires into needs, which is one reason why consumers have begun
opening up their wallets,” observed Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the
National Retail Federation (NRF), an industry trade association. “There is no
doubt that the economy is on the upswing, certainly compared to six months ago.
Stronger-than-expected February sales and an improving labor market paint a
bright picture of the U.S. economy, although the impact rising gas prices will
have on the economy’s momentum remains unclear.”

Echoed NRF CEO
Matthew Shay, “While February sales certainly present continued reason for
optimism, retailers are paying close attention to rising gasoline prices, which
are forcing millions of our customers to spend a significant portion of
disposable income filling their gas tanks.”

The sales estimates,
generated by the Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau, are adjusted for
seasonal variation and holiday and trading day differences, but not for price

Separately, NRF
reported that import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports
is expected to increase 10 percent this month and that year-over-year gains
should continue through mid-summer.

The forecast,
developed by NRF and Hackett Associates, suggests that “stores are carefully
stocking up,” said NRF supply chain and customs policy VP Jonathan Gold.
“Retailers only import more if they expect to sell more, so these numbers are a
sign that optimism is growing.”