January 22, 2001

Bargain hunting consumers helped retailers post better-than-expected January sales gains, and clear out inventories just in time for spring, according to the National Retail Federation. Responding to a just-released Commerce Department report, NRF President Tracy Mullin noted that the brisk January sales were a welcome occurrence for retailers whose sales fell victim to bad weather and unexpected economic pressures on consumers last holiday season.

"Retailers were heartened to see sales rebound in January," Mullin said. "With retail inventories in check, stores are now better positioned for the spring selling season."

Mullin noted that strong sales across the board last month suggest that while consumers are more value conscious, they are clearly not ready to stop spending. January retail sales rose 0.7 percent over December 2000 sales, and 3.5 percent above January 2000 figures.

"It was like Christmas in January for many consumers. Whether they were shopping for clothes, furniture or electronics, the bargains were there for the taking."

Moving forward, the NRF President expects consumers to evince a more cautious attitude toward spending, but not abandon it completely.

"We are anticipating a slowdown in sales growth in early 2001," Mullin said, "But we remain confident that the Fed’s actions to ease monetary policy will avoid a hard landing and possibly spur a re-acceleration of growth later in the year.”

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