February sales were better than expectations with total sales down 0.1% to January and up 3.1% to February 2015. However, the January retail sales were revised from up 0.2% to down 0.4%. While the latter was quite a surprise, the year over year trend themes continue: online up, big ticket (auto, furniture) up and restaurants up. A few highlights from February:
- Building material & garden equipment had the largest percentage gain of 12.2% versus last year
- Motor vehicle and parts dealers were up 6.8% versus last year
- Sporting, non-store (online) remain strong year over year with 6.7% and 6.3% growth respectively
- Restaurants passed grocery months ago and haven't looked back
- The Electronics vacuum of sales to online continues with a decline of 3.2%
- Department Stores multi-decade decline continues with a decline of 2.2% year over year
Given the stats above, I would anticipate continued strong comps for home improvement players like Home Depot, online only retailers like Amazon and auto players. With that said, the revisions are concerning. If we see further revisions downward, earnings in the coming quarters will likely result in lower than anticipated gross margins as retailers will need to "buy" the quarters through markdowns.
January Retail Sales can be found here.
December Retail Sales can be found here.