January tanked compared to December, because of Christmas. You would look like a fool if you made that comparison, but there are hundreds of articles that do this for February compared to January. Everyone in retail knows you compare numbers from the same period a year before, adjusted for holidays that fall on variable days. Even then, if February 2007 had record sales, and February 2008 dropped by .6%, then you're still doing pretty darn good. If you 're an "A" student and you bring home an A-minus, you're still getting supper.
Retail sales for February 2008 compared to February 2007 were up 2.4%. That's really good! Black Diamond Games sales were up 74%, but I've stopped comparing due to the differences between the two store; still, it's fun to say it! The only place I could find that explain these statistics is the census bureau website. These guys appreciate numbers and their meaning. Also not mentioned by the press, that .6% number has a margin of error of plus or minus .7%. So they got nothin'. Here's a good summary from the census bureau folks:
Retail trade sales were down 0.6 percent (±0.7%)* from January 2008, but were 2.4 percent (±0.8%) above last year. Gasoline station sales were up 20.2 percent (±1.0%) from February 2007 and sales of sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores were up 6.3 percent (±2.8%) from last year.