Warmer weather in February translates to increase retail sales.

February retail sales rose 8.6% over last year, marking 20 consecutive months of sustained growth, The National Retail Federation reported Tuesday.

The seasonally adjusted increase — stronger than expected — was 0.5%, which excludes automobiles, gas stations and restaurants.

“Though February is typically a month for consumers to stay home and wait for spring, shoppers this year took advantage of mild weather to get a head start on outdoor projects and warm-weather apparel,” NRF president and CEO Matthew R. Shay said. “While February sales certainly present continued reason for optimism, retailers are paying close attention to rising gasoline prices, which are forcing millions of our customers to spend a significant portion of disposable income filling their gas tanks.”

NRF continues to forecast retail industry sales will rise 3.4% in 2012 to $2.53 trillion.

Make sure your retail stores are ready for the increased foot traffic, and that your signage is up to date with the new season (spring is just a week away).

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