Yesterday, the National Retail Federation officially reported that retail sales for the month climbed an impressive 5.3 % from last year and 0.7 % from December, in large part because of healthy gift-card redemptions. (Retailers don't count the sales of the holiday gift cards when they are purchased, but when they are redeemed.)
And it also helped the weather turned colder in so much of the U.S., giving retailers a chance to unload the parkas and mittens that went mostly ignored during the unseasonably warm months of November and December.
The retail sales numbers released by the U.S. Commerce Department yesterday were slightly less rosy, however. The government includes sales of cars, gasoline and foodservices in its data, and said that January sales were flat compared to December, and up 2.3% year-over-year.