NRF Says Increase in Home-Related Spending Help Strengthen Year-to-Year Gains

As expected, retail industry sales continued to climb with positive gains in March as home improvement and furnishing categories continue to see significant increases. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail industry sales for March (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose a solid 7.2 percent over last year and increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over February. In fact, last month’s sales were stronger than originally reported. February sales were revised up from 7.2 percent to 7.8 percent.
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Washington, DC, – As expected, retail industry sales continued to climb with positive gains in March as home improvement and furnishing categories continue to see significant increases. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail industry sales for March (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose a solid 7.2 percent over last year and increased 0.3 percent seasonally adjusted over February. In fact, last month's sales were stronger than originally reported. February sales were revised up from 7.2 percent to 7.8 percent.

“In spite of economic concerns, consumers are still demonstrating their ability to spend,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “With gas prices continuing to rise and the slowdown in the housing market, we expect consumers to become more conservative as the year goes on.”

March retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.6 percent seasonally adjusted from February and increased 7.9 percent unadjusted year-over-year. These increases were impacted by consumers' investments in their homes and properties.

Many retailers experienced year-over-year growth; however no category performed better than building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers. Sales in this category increased an astounding 17.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Furniture and home furnishings stores also benefited from consumers' buying power, with sales rising 10.8 percent unadjusted over last March. Health and personal care stores were also among the top retail performers, with increases of 5.9 percent unadjusted from the prior year, as well as sporting goods, hobby, book & music stores with increases of 7.9 percent unadjusted from last year.

The National Retail Federation is the world 's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry 's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.4 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 23 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2005 sales of $4.4 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com.

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