March 8, 1999
Retail Sales Up in February
Retail sales were better than expected in February, leading most retail
analysts to raise expectations that consumer spending will stay strong in
Factors such as low unemployment and higher wages, as well as a rush of
early tax refunds, were credited as the reasons for the healthy performance.
Discounters led the list of retailers with good sales. Wal-Mart's sales during the Valentine's Day period, including a strong jewelry category, were up 17.7% over the same period in 1998. Upscale department stores such as Saks (up 7% over '98) and Neiman Marcus
(up 8.6%) also fared well, as did specialty retailers like Ann Taylor. The
lackluster performers were once again middle-of-the-road stores such as Sears,
which posted a 4.6% decline in sales, and J.C. Penney, which had a downturn
of 1.6% from a year earlier.
- by Peggy Jo Donahue