U.S. shoppers likely pulled back slightly on retail spending during February, as a broader economic rebound appears poised to accelerate this spring because of the easing pandemic and another round of government stimulus.
Economists expect retail sales—a measure of purchases at stores, at restaurants and online—ticked lower by 0.1% in February compared with the prior month. The decline would follow robust January sales, particularly on goods, that were propelled by stimulus payments to households from the December pandemic-relief package and other stimulus.
“The February data are in the context of the January surge on consumer spending in goods,” said Ryan Wang, U.S. economist at HSBC. “In some sense, even a modest decline would still leave consumer spending, especially on goods, up substantially since the turn of the year.”
February is typically a quiet month for retail sales, as stores gear up for the spring selling season, including Easter. Severe winter weather in February also wreaked havoc across a large swath of the U.S., which might have also weighed on sales last month, said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James Financial.
Richard Woolley, owner at Weathered Vineyards in New Tripoli, Pa., said February was a slow month for sales, with revenue at the winery during Valentine’s Day weekend down 50% compared with last year.