NAICS 444 sales up double digits in February

Once again, sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (NAICS 444) turned in one of the brightest retail category performances in the U.S. Census Bureau's tally of monthly retail sales.

On an unadjusted basis, NAICS 444 sales hit $30.260 billion in February; that's up more than 11% compared to the same month last year.

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Monthly sales were up compared to last year, but down compared to last month.

Growth in the hardware and building supply category compares favorably to seven of the other eight categories. Only online and non-stores sales showed a higher year-over-year gain. Here are the year-over-year growth numbers by category:

• Online: up 23.5%
• Building materials: up 11.4%
• Sporting goods: up 11%
• Grocery: up 5.1%
• Furniture: up 5.1%
• Health and personal care: up 2.4%
• General merchandise: unchanged
• Electronics: down 6.7%
• Clothing: down 14.9%

While most categories posted year-over-year growth, it was a different story for comparisons to January. Eight of the nine categories showed declines on an adjusted basis, and the ninth category—grocery—was unchanged.

Overall, advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for February were down 3.0% on an adjusted basis compared to January. NAICS 444 sales were also down 3.0% for the month.

"February’s retail sales numbers are a minor speed bump on the road to post-pandemic recovery and are not a reflection of consumers’ willingness and ability to spend and drive the economy,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. "A number of factors contributed to these results, including major snowstorms in the northeast and unprecedented ice storms in the south, but they do not diminish the stimulus-related growth we saw in January or what we expect to see as additional stimulus relief hits consumer bank accounts in the weeks ahead."

The Census Bureau's estimate of sales in the sub category of hardware stores (NAICS 44413) are not available for February. But the January update shows hardware store sales up 14% compared to January of 2020, but down 16% compared to December 2020.