February retail sales slammed by winter weather

U.S. retail sales took a nosedive in February as harsh winter weather gripped several parts of the country and consumers waited for another round of economic stimulus.

Sales tumbled 3.0 percent last month, according to data released Tuesday from the Commerce Department.

The unusual snowstorm that battered the South, knocking out power across Texas, was largely blamed for the much bigger-than-expected drop.

Sales were down across the board on a month-to-month basis with the biggest declines seen at department stores, sporting goods and other recreational outlets; even online sales took a hit.

But economists expect February's weakness to be short lived now that most consumers are getting $1,400 checks as part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package signed last week by President Biden.

Add to that, the extension of $300 in extra government benefits for the unemployed.. and the rollout of vaccines.

Bankrate's Ted Rossman:

"I do think that soon, with more stimulus, more health improvements and warmer weather, I think things will be looking a lot better in March and beyond."

Getting consumers out and about is key to any economic rebound since consumer spending powers two-thirds of all U.S. economic activity.