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NRF: February retail sales up 8.6% year-over-year

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — The National Retail Federation released information on Tuesday that showed a year-over-year retail sales rise of 8.6% in February, marking 20 consecutive months of sustained growth.

The seasonally adjusted increase — stronger than expected — was 0.5%, which excludes automobiles, gas stations and restaurants.

“Though February is typically a month for consumers to stay home and wait for spring, shoppers this year took advantage of mild weather to get a head start on outdoor projects and warm-weather apparel,” NRF president and CEO Matthew R. Shay said. “While February sales certainly present continued reason for optimism, retailers are paying close attention to rising gasoline prices, which are forcing millions of our customers to spend a significant portion of disposable income filling their gas tanks.”

NRF continues to forecast retail industry sales will rise 3.4% in 2012 to $2.53 trillion.

“Pent-up demand is turning desires into needs, which is one reason why consumers have begun opening up their wallets,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “There is no doubt that the economy is on the upswing, certainly compared to six months ago. Stronger-than-expected February sales and an improving labor market paint a bright picture of the U.S. economy, although the impact rising gas prices will have on the economy’s momentum remains unclear.”

Other findings from February retail sales numbers include a 1% seasonally adjusted rise at sporting goods, hobby, and book and music stores (up 7.4% unadjusted year-over-year), a 1.4% increase at building material, garden equipment and supplies dealers (18.2% unadjusted year-over-year), a 1.5% rise at department store (4.8% unadjusted), and a 1.8% increase at clothing and accessories stores (11.6% unadjusted).

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Retail container traffic to increase 10% in March

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — A report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates said that import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 10% in March compared with the same month last year. And, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker, year-over-year gains should continue through mid-summer.

“Retailers are still watching all the economic indicators very carefully, but there are enough signs of improvement that stores are carefully stocking up,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “Retailers only import more if they expect to sell more, so these numbers are a sign that optimism is growing.”

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.22 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in January, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 4.4% from December and 1.3% from January 2011. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

February, historically the slowest month of the year, was estimated at 1.05 million TEU, down 4.2% from a year ago, and March is forecast at 1.2 million TEU, up 10% from last year. April is forecast at 1.26 million TEU, up 3.6%; May at 1.28 million TEU, the same as last year; June at 1.3 million TEU, up 4.2%; and July at 1.36 million TEU, up 2.8%. The total for 2011 was 14.8 million TEU, up 0.4% from 2010’s 14.75 million TEU.

The first half of 2012 should total 7.32 million TEU, up 2.4% from the same period last year.

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Former PetSmart exec to fill new sustainability role at Kroger

BY CSA STAFF

CINCINNATI — Sustainability is a core part of most retailers’ strategies, but unless you have someone to lead the charge, those efforts can fall by the wayside. Kroger has taken steps to ensure its sustainable initiatives are met by hiring Suzanne Lindsay to fill the new role of director of sustainability. Lindsay will direct Kroger’s internal sustainability initiatives and will lead the company’s sustainability leadership team.

Lindsay previously created and led sustainability initiatives at PetSmart Inc. She has also worked extensively in real estate, development, and civil engineering. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Lawrence Technological University, in Michigan.

"We have made substantial progress in sustainability in the past five years through energy savings, waste reduction, transportation efficiency and by reducing the use of plastic bags," said Lynn Marmer, group VP corporate affairs at Kroger. "Suzanne will help us accelerate our progress and identify new opportunities to improve our environmental stewardship. We are pleased that she is joining the Kroger family."

An overview of Kroger’s sustainability efforts can be found at http://sustainability.kroger.com.

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