By Lenore Fedow
U.S. retail sales were up 5.3 percent month-over-month in January to $568.2 billion.
New York—Consumer spending in the United States was off to a strong start in 2021, bolstered by momentum from the holiday season and stimulus checks.

Overall retail sales were up 5.3 percent month-over-month in January to $568.2 billion, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, climbing 7.4 percent year-over-year.

The results surpassed analyst expectations of a monthly rise of 1.2 percent.

As with other months, December’s numbers were revised to reflect more recent information.  

Sales were down 1 percent month-over-month in December, but up 2.5 year-over-year.

“January’s retail sales numbers reflect a very strong start for consumers and retailers as we look ahead to a critical year curbing the global pandemic and strengthening our economic recovery,” said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay in a press release about the results. 

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said the rise in retail spending was expected, due in part to the latest round of stimulus checks and improving COVID-19 trends.

“There was none of the falloff in spending that we often find post-holiday and the increase was even better than expected,” he said.

“There is plenty of purchasing power available for most consumers, and the pickup in shopping has even been reflected in the number of hours worked by retail employees.”

Kleinhenz said consumer confidence is growing because of the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine and the easing of restrictions on economic activity by state and local governments.

Shay said NRF has communicated with the White House, stressing how important it is to retailers for the COVID-19 vaccine to be administered into communities as quickly and as safely as possible.

The retail organization also calculates monthly retail sales, narrowing in on core retail and excluding auto sales, gas stations, and restaurants.

Its calculations show January sales were up 5.9 percent seasonally adjusted from December and up 10.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Seven out of nine retail categories saw year-over-year increases, according to the NRF, led by electronics and appliance stores on a monthly basis and online sales on a yearly basis.

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