United States Retail Sales Surge 3.8% in January

Consumer spending bounced back sharply in January as rising inflation and a post-holiday surge kept cash registers ringing, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday that retail sales for the month rose 3.8%.

Excluding auto sales, the retail gain was 3.3%, after falling 2.8% in the previous month.

Online shopping contributed the most on a percentage basis, with non-store retailers seeing a gain of 14.5%. Furniture and home furnishing sales increased 7.2%, while motor vehicle and parts dealers saw a 5.7% rise.

Food and drinking establishments, considered a barometer for the pandemic-era economy, saw sales dip just 0.9% for the month despite the major escalation in Covid cases fueled by the omicron spread.

“Consumers say they are worried about inflation, but they continue to spend,” PNC’s chief economist, Gus Faucher, wrote. “Even taking into account the December decline, retail sales in recent months have been increasing much faster than prices, so households are purchasing larger volumes of goods and services, not just paying higher prices.”

Sales at sporting goods, music and book stores fell 3% while gasoline station receipts were off 1.3% as a tick down in fuel costs saw prices at the pump move lower.

On a year-over-year basis, retail sales overall rose 13%, pushed higher by a 33.4% surge in gasoline station sales and a 21.9% burst in clothing stores.