Consumer spending, that all-important engine that drives GDP growth, rose by 3.5% in February compared to the same month last year, up from December’s and January’s 3.3% increase, but well off the 12-month high of 4.4% reached in late 2014.
Although spending on apparel and footwear lagged the overall increase, rising by only 1.7% on a 12-month smoothed basis, it was the biggest increase for the combined categories in the past three months.
An increase in footwear spending was responsible for much of the gain. Footwear consumption rose by 2.1% in the month, while the rise in apparel alone was only 1.5%.
Within apparel, spending on clothing for women increased by 1.4%, while men’s apparel consumption was up by 1.8% and children’s increased by 1.7%.
Sluggish growth in the apparel sector has been a big problem for retailers, particularly those in the department and specialty store sectors whose merchandise mix is heavily apparel-driven.