Big stores suffered a more than 4 percent sales decline compared to February 2014, while apparel specialty stores increased sales by almost 3 percent.
Total adjusted retail sales rose by 3.1% compared to the same month last year, to $447 billion, helped by above-average sales at automobile dealerships, home and building materials stores, e-commerce retailers and restaurants. On a 12-month smoothed basis, total retail sales rose by 1.2%, their smallest increase in 10 months.
The further decline in gasoline prices and firming job market had a smaller impact on automobile retailers, which rose by 3.2%, their smallest increase in a year on a 12-month smoothed basis. Taking cars out of the mix, retail sales increased by only 1.2%.
Aside from a mid-month cold snap in the Northeast that helped clear out winter goods, unseasonably warm weather in much of the country did little to help department, chain and discount stores, which collectively saw sales drop by 3.6% on a year-over-year basis in February (4.8% on a smoothed basis).
Apparel specialty stores sales rose by 2.8% in February, to $21.5 billion. On a 12-month smoothed basis, sales were up by more than 2 percent.
For the combined department and specialty sector, a barometer of overall apparel, sales were virtually flat on a year-over-year basis. On a 12-month smoothed basis, the decline was 0.6%.