March 4, 2005 -- Retailers reported stronger-than-expected sales last month, thanks to a healthy economy, the beginning of tax refund season, and the SuperBowl.

Same-store sales overall rose 4.8 %last month, exceeding an expected 3.8% rise. Same-store sales, which measures the performance of individual stores to a previous period--in this case, February 2004--isconsidered the best indicator of a retailer's health.

Strong economic growth and an estimated 9.2% increase in tax refunds from the previous year drove America's shopping spree in February, according to Ken Perkins, president of the research firm Retail Metrics. The SuperBowl, which normally falls in January, also helped, particularly at discount, food, and consumer electronics retailers.

"It's one of the biggest times of year for sales of plasma and large-screen TVs, as well as beer and food sales," said Perkins of the SuperBowl.

Apparel retailers, on the other hand, did well last month because of a keen eye for style. "They seem to be right on, in terms of inventory and fashion," said Perkins.

Giants like Wal-Mart and Target, as well as upscale specialties like Bebe and Abercrombie & Fitch, reported a boost in same-store sales in February.