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Harsh Weather Dips February Retail Sales 10 Percent

A February marked by constant snowstorms, freezing temperatures, and subway breakdowns has also taken a toll on the retail market with sales falling 10 percent nationwide, according to a recently published RetailNext report.

Retail sales in February fell by 10.4 percent compared to last year, along with a 12.5 percent drop in consumer traffic, and an 11.7 percent drop in retail transactions.

While the whole nation felt the impact of these declines, consumer behavior varied by region. The Northeast saw a 16.6 percent decline in traffic and a 12.7 percent decline in sales, while the South witnessed a 17.1 percent decline in traffic and a 13.4 percent decline in sales. The Midwest saw a 13.9 percent decrease in traffic paired with a 13.5 percent decrease in sales. And, finally, the West had a 12.9 percent decrease in traffic and a 10.6 percent decrease in sales.

The report speculated that steep declines in traffic were primarily related to weather conditions.

The best day for retail last month was Valentine’s Day, which had the most sales, traffic and transactions, while Feb. 2 was the worst day for those three categories, possibly due to “Super Storm Monday” as RetailNext termed it.

The February numbers marked the fifth straight month of year-on-year declines in sales, traffic, and transactions, and the second-worst one-month drop in sales after November. This news comes on the heels of Commerce Department figures showing retail declines from December and January due to falling revenues from auto dealers and gas stations, even though the National Retail Federation noticed an uptick when those metrics are excluded from the findings.

Despite the gloomy figures, there were some bright spots in RetailNext’s report. Sales per shopper, which considers how much was purchased relative to in-store traffic, were up 2.8 percent, while average transaction volume was up 2.3 percent.

“All regions encountered positive trends in sales per shopper, indicating consumer commitment once shoppers entered stores,” the report stated. “Consumers are spending time and effort researching products and pricing which is evident in the significant rise in SPS, especially in the south and Northeast.”

Traffic conversion rates were up 0.5 percent for transactions, making February the fifth straight month of increase in that metric.

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