Mar 6 - Retailers say sales picked up at the end of February, suggesting shopping will rebound as temperatures rise, the stock market stays healthy and the labor continues a slow improvement. Lily Jamali looks for answers.
It's the confirmation many retailers were looking for: perhaps the disappointing sales trend that started over the holidays really can be chalked up to bad weather. February same-store sales rose at a set of large retailers followed by Thomson Reuters. Frigid temperatures left many shopkeepers out in the cold for the first part of the month. But as the weather improved, experts say, consumers came back: NYU Marketing professor Priya Raghubir: SOUNDBITE: PRIYA RAGHUBIR, PROFESSOR OF MARKETING, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It's been a brutal winter - when it's a brutal winter, people are not going to go out and shop. And so the fact that there is an increase rather than a drop is a pleasant surprise to me." Same store sales figures were up roughly two percent from the same time last year - but that's much worse than the 4.8 percent growth seen February 2013. Throughout winter, retailers have stayed optimistic that consumers would return as conditions improve. Add to that a record-setting stock market, which should boost the mood just ahead of spring. SOUNDBITE: PRIYA RAGHUBIR, PROFESSOR OF MARKETING, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The stock market has done great in Feb. (February) on every which index, except bonds. And so clearly, all the signs for the basics of the economy are doing well." But that has yet to significantly boost spending. REPORTER STANDUP: LILY JAMALI, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "To keep shoppers coming, stores have resorted to offering deep price cuts and promotions. Consumers say they've noticed." SOUNDBITE: VINCENT KELSEY, SHOPPER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I'm seeing a lot of price cuts. I'm seeing a lot of discounts. I'm seeing a lot of clearance sales and I expect, you know, to see that when I go into stores now." Another sign of hope: improvement in the job market. New unemployment claims are at their lowest point in three months. Still, tightened lending standards have left some consumers unable to access the credit that helped fuel the economy just a few years ago, meaning the road to recovery could be a long one for shoppers.