Retailers Got No Love on Valentine's Day

It looks like Valentine's Day got cold feet. Heavy snows caused retail sales to sink in the week ending Feb. 13, according to the tally by the International Council of Shopping Centers.Sales were down 0.7% from the same period in 2009 and 1.6% from the week before, which had benefited from the shift of the Super Bowl back one week into February. That helped increase the sale of food and TVs. It was the first time the year-over-year retail numbers had been down since last September.

ICSC Chief Economist Michael Niemira noted in a report that 49 of 50 states got significant snowfall, and parts of the South were still digging out from record snowfalls a week earlier. It was also much colder than usual in most of the country, he noted.

"However, storm-induced pent-up demand is likely to be unleashed during the upcoming current week," Niemira wrote. He held to his forecast of a 2% sales increase in February, but also noted that's still lower than the pickup seen in recent months. Sales were up more than 3% in January, but as many observers have noted, the recent pickup in sales growth is at least partly due to a comparison with a very grim sales period in late 2008 and early 2009.

The retail recovery remains fragile. This year, retailers were expecting a healthy Valentine's Day, but no real fireworks. Shoppers remain frugal, and recent surveys had found the majority weren't planning to spend more this year.

Valentine's Day isn't nearly as important as the year-end holidays are to retailers, but it's the first major shopping event of the year. Retailers were counting on Valentine's Day and the Super Bowl to hold on to their gains for the holiday season and post-holiday clearances in January.

Sadly, it looks like love can move mountains, but not snowdrifts at the mall.
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