Coronavirus BRIEFING

January Retail Sales Show Strong Increase Boosted By Stimulus Funds and Momentum From Record Holidays

By
WASHINGTON—Retail sales grew sharply in January as government stimulus checks provided a boost and momentum from 2020’s record holiday season carried over into the new year, according to a recent feature from the the National Retail Federation.

The U.S. Census Bureau said overall retail sales in January were up 5.3 percent seasonally adjusted from December and up 7.4 percent year-over-year. That compares with a monthly drop of 1 percent but a yearly gain of 2.5 percent in December. Despite month-over-month declines in the last quarter of 2020, sales have grown year-over-year every month since June, according to Census data.

“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,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Consumers and the economy as a whole remain in good shape despite unprecedented adversity over the past year, and congressional action has been a lifeline for households and businesses disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

We’ve convened retail leaders and communicated directly with the White House that it is critically important for the government to work with retailers to get the vaccine into communities and administered as quickly and as safely as possible.”

“We expected retail spending to ramp up in January thanks to the latest round of stimulus checks and better covid trends, and it clearly did,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “There was none of the falloff in spending that we often find post-holiday and the increase was even better than expected.

“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. Confidence is building thanks to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and states and local governments are beginning to remove restrictions on economic activity. Going forward, I expect consumer spending to build on this momentum.”