Todd Hale, Senior Vice President, Shopper and Consumer Insight
The beginning of the year brought some surprising good news for retailers: retail sales (excluding automotive) rebounded in January and February. While the figures were not earth-shattering – sales grew 1 percent and January and 0.7 percent in February – they were significant improvements on the last four months of 2008, where declines ranged from 1.2 percent to 3.1 percent.
Using data collected by the Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel, we saw improved trip performance in the first two months of the year in most channels. Exceptions were drug stores, which were affected by a weak flu season, department and toy stores.
While we expect that March will be weak, due primarily to Easter falling later this year, signs seem to be indicating that we may be near a bottom of the economic downturn. Data from the second quarter will be critical in determining whether renewed growth is on the horizon, or if we are in store for several more months of decline.