Retail Sales Hold Steady Through February, But Price Remains a Pressure Point, Reports Circana

Prioritized discretionary shopping patterns may signal broader retail shifts as consumer distractions loom

CHICAGO, March 25, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In February 2024, U.S. retail sales revenue, including both discretionary general merchandise and consumer packaged goods (CPG), remained flat, and units declined 1% compared to the same month last year. Discretionary general merchandise spending declines continued at the newly established levels, with 5% dollar and 4% unit sales declines compared to last February. CPG performance also held steady from last month. Food and beverage year-over-year sales revenue grew 1%, and unit sales were flat. Non-edible CPG sales improved slightly, with 2% revenue growth and a 1% unit sales decline, according to Circana™, the leading advisor on the complexity of consumer behavior.  

“Consumers are settling into their new spending pattern of buying what they need as they go. They are not overextending themselves financially, but they are not going without, either,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry advisor for Circana. “This prioritization emerged in discretionary spending over the last two years and is now becoming evident in some of the more essential retail food and beverage spending behavior.” 

Areas of the greatest growth over the past year highlight some specific consumer priorities.


  • Consumers pampered themselves with skincare, but they also maintained their cars.
  • They worked and played, spending on sports equipment and tailored apparel.
  • Increased spending on things like pet supplements, paper towels, and toilet paper demonstrates what the consumer deemed essential.
  • Consumers responded to both social and promotional influences — the former propelling the portable beverageware trend, and the latter conveying exciting product offerings within the challenged technology and toy industries.


The consumer has been significantly affected by price changes across retail for the past few years. Each retail segment has at some point over the last year elevated 25% or more in price compared to 2019. While changes in general merchandise pricing are more volatile, with dramatic spending shifts compared to the evolutionary shifts in retail food and beverage, non-edible CPG, and quick-service restaurants, the influence from resulting changes in consumer behavior is just as impactful on sales volume.

“Spending on retail food and beverage has stabilized, and watching the exchange between food and general merchandise — or discretionary and nondiscretionary spending — is particularly critical,” added Cohen. “Distractions like the economy and politics are not currently instigating panic in the consumer, and changes to interest rates have yet to be realized. However, these are all realities with the potential of significantly impacting the way consumers think about their purchases, and how they prioritize and allocate their spending.”  


About Circana 
Circana is the leading advisor on the complexity of consumer behavior. Through unparalleled technology, advanced analytics, cross-industry data and deep expertise, we provide clarity that helps almost 7,000 of the world’s leading brands and retailers take action and unlock business growth. We understand more about the complete consumer, the complete store and the complete wallet, so our clients can go beyond the data to apply insights, ignite innovation, meet consumer demand and outpace the competition. Learn more at


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