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NRF: January marks seventh straight month of retail gains

Consumers' holiday spending power spilled into January, making the month the seventh consecutive to post retail sales gains, the National Retail Federation reported.

January's retail industry sales - which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants - increased 0.2% seasonally adjusted from December and 3.5% unadjusted year-over-year.

"In spite of the economic uncertainties that still exist, consumers are clearly demonstrating their desire to spend on discretionary items once again," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. "The industry is certainly benefitting from the renewed confidence we're seeing in shoppers, although sustained growth in 2011 will largely rely on improvement in key economic indicators like employment and housing."

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz explained that many factors, including stock market gains, tax cuts, income growth and savings, "built up during the recession are contributing to the recent spur in consumer spending. While some of what we saw in January is directly related to seasonal purchases, it's encouraging to see spending on other discretionary items such as electronics also increased."

January retail sales, released Tuesday by the U.S. Commerce Department, show total retail sales - which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants - increased 0.3% seasonally adjusted over December and 7.1% unadjusted year-over-year.

Strength in spending came from grocery stores, health and personal care stores and electronics and appliance stores.

Clothing and clothing accessory stores sales decreased 0.3% seasonally adjusted over last month but increased 1.8% unadjusted year-over-year. Sales at grocery stores increased  1.4% seasonally adjusted from the previous month and 3.8% unadjusted year-over-year.

Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores sales decreased 1.3% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and increased 0.4% unadjusted year-over-year. Electronics and appliance stores sales increased 0.3% seasonally adjusted over December and decreased 0.7% unadjusted year-over-year. Sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted month-to-month and 6.2% unadjusted over last year.

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