Retail group encouraged by sales data

As the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) sees it, the figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce exceeded expectations despite headwinds caused by extreme weather in the Northeast and a continued adjustment to higher payroll taxes. 

Monthly retail sales figures for February totaled $421.4 billion, an increase of 1.1% over the previous month, and 4.6% over February 2012. 

“While gasoline prices helped lift the overall sales in February, core retail sales were also strong and demonstrate the resilience of consumers in a slowly recovering economy,” said RILA president Sandy Kennedy. “Recognizing the continued challenges consumers face, retailers remain nimble, adjusting marketing, promotions and product assortments to earn their share of consumer spending.”

In addition to gasoline sales, home improvement and grocery retailers saw substantial gains in February, while sales at department stores, sporting goods retailers and home furnishing retailers slipped over the previous month. 

The February retail sales gains come as retailers draw closer to action on federal legislation to level the playing field between Main Street retailers and their online-only competitors. Non-store retailers were up 1.6% from January 2013 and 15.7% February of last year.

RILA said: “Many continue to exploit a loophole that allows them to avoid collecting the state sales tax due on every sale made.” According to RILA, this special treatment gives them a perceived price advantage over brick-and-mortar stores, in some states as high as 10%.

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