Friday, February 23, 2007

Gift Cards Are Changing Retail

In a NRF news release...

Consumers put their gift cards to good use in January, snapping up discounted winter apparel and new spring merchandise at clothing stores, department stores, and personal care stores. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail industry sales for January (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose 5.3 percent unadjusted over last year and 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from December.

January retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) were unchanged from December and increased 4.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year. December industry sales were revised upward from 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted to 1.2 percent seasonally adjusted from the previous month.

“Shoppers hit the stores in January to redeem holiday gift cards from a wide variety of retailers,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “Though January is historically the slowest sales month for retailers, gift cards are changing the game by bringing a much-needed boost to stores.”

Eager consumers hit apparel and personal care stores last month to stock up on discounted merchandise with gift cards in hand. Clothing and clothing accessories stores saw sales increase 6.0 percent unadjusted over last year and 1.0 percent adjusted from December. Health and personal care stores, which showed the strongest year-over-year gains, increased 10.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year and 0.6 percent adjusted month-to-month.

Electronics and appliance stores are still experiencing sales increases largely due to the popularity of such items as high definition televisions, video game systems and MP3 players. Unadjusted year-over-year sales in electronics and appliance stores increased 5.1 percent and slightly decreased 1.2 percent from last month.

NRF continues to expect 2007 sales to increase 4.8% over 2006.