The following is not typically a formula for retail success stories: stubbornly high unemployment plus dipping consumer confidence plus a record-shattering month for stormy weather. But these are not typical times and so as the February sales numbers roll in, we see that the Department of Commerce is reporting a slight jump in sales from January of 0.3% and a larger leap of 3.9% over February of last year.
As noted last week, Americans were eager to unload some of that hot cash they’d stored up at the end of last year in the form of personal disposable income. I’d worried that perhaps we were back on the same cycle of spending ourselves into debt but these new figures suggest a consumer group that is proceeding both confidently and cautiously. It’s not like February sales blew January clear out of the water. We’re just feeling a little better about things and, hell, we might even have jobs again some day.
Experts, in fact, say we are maintaining a hyper-frugal approach to buying, a fact that is born out in the unprecedented rise of coupon use. Should that spirit persist once the economy is really back on its feet, we should, collectively, be less exposed to the perils of a debt-ridden lifestyle. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a little shopping to do before the weekend begins.