February Retail Sales Drop by 3%, but Analysts Remain Optimistic About the Near Future

By Thomas Price Tuesday, March 16, 2021

A downward trending graph.

Following an incredibly uplifting boost in United States (US) retail sales in January, February numbers took a tumble in comparison, as $600 stimulus checks ran dry and cold weather kept consumers indoors and buying less. The drop in the month was much larger than initially expected by analysts, disappointing many who projected a far smaller dropoff. Despite the fall in February, optimism still remains incredibly high for the immediate future as the newest round of stimulus checks begin getting delivered and the economy reopens as the COVID-19 pandemic starts to wane.

Details of February Retail Sales

Over the course of the month of February, retail sales in the US fell by 3% in comparison to last month, according to the US Department of Commerce. Most economists had only predicted a dip of 0.5%. While this is partially due to the adjustment of January from a 5.3% retail gain to a 7.6% gain, the fall is also due to several different contributing factors.

One of the largest reasons behind the dip in overall retail sales comes from the intense cold streak that swept through the nation over the course of February. In Texas, surrounding states, and the Northeast in particular, snow and low temperatures kept many consumers indoors and away from any heavy spending. The effect rippled throughout the country as overall credit and debit spending sharply dropped following the snowstorms in Texas according to JP Morgan Chase.

Another major contributing factor in the retail dip was the end of individual stimulus check spending, as the $600 check was largely spent up by the time February came around. The stimulus had previously helped spike sales in both December and January as the extra money allowed for consumers to shop for both essential and nonessential items in higher quantity than normal.

Despite the larger than expected dip in sales, most analysts are still incredibly optimistic about the future of the economy.

Future Projections for Retail Sales

While February was a worse than expected decline in retail sales, analysts expect a major comeback starting in March. This is partially due to the newest round of individual stimulus checks worth $1,400, which are currently being deposited to qualified Americans all over the country. The additional stimulus will provide a major boost to the latter half of March’s retail sales as many Americans will now have more spending money at their disposal.

Another major factor is the accelerated pace of vaccination efforts in the US. As more adults receive their vaccination from COVID-19, the economy will continue to reopen en masse, allowing for restaurant revenue, travel revenue, and other entertainment options to see larger increases in the months to follow. This has led to economic growth projections as high as 7%, making 2021 the largest overall year of growth since 1984.

About the Author


Headshot for author Thomas Price

Tom Price is a writer focusing on Entertainment and Sports Features. He has a degree from NYU in English with a minor in Creative Writing. He has been previously published for Washington Square News, Dignitas, CBR, and Numbers on the Boards.

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