NEW YORK: Americans cut back on spending in February as cold weather and economic challenges slowed the buying of spring merchandise.
The nation’s retailers on Thursday reported that sales slowed in February, a time when most stores get rid of winter merchandise and bring in swimsuits, ankle length pants and other spring fashions.
But Americans spent more judiciously during the month as they contended with an increase in the payroll tax of 2 percentage points, income tax refunds that came later than usual and rising gas prices. Winter storms throughout much of the country in February also likely made spring merchandise less appealing.
February’s tally reflects a drop in sales growth from January. Overall, 14 retailers reported on Thursday that revenue at stores open at least a year — an indicator of retail health — rose an average of 4.1 percent, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, an industry trade group. That compares with a 5.1 percent increase in January, and a rise of 6.7 percent in February 2012.
But the latest results also mark a reduction in the number of stores reporting monthly revenue, including big names like Target and Macy’s. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, hasn’t reported on a monthly basis in years.