WASHINGTON — A fundamental weakness in the economy coupled with steep job losses led to a decline in retail apparel sales across the board in April, according to economists.
Sales at clothing and accessories stores in April dropped sharply on a seasonally adjusted basis by 3.2 percent to $14.3 billion against March, and also fell 0.9 percent against April 2002, according to the Commerce Department’s retail sales report released Wednesday.
Sales at department stores, excluding leased departments, fell a seasonally adjusted 1.4 percent in April to $17.8 billion, while sales at general merchandise stores, which include department stores, discounters and warehouse stores, declined 0.6 percent to $38.7 billion.
Continuing the year-over-year declines in April, sales at department stores fell dramatically by 8.3 percent, while sales at the broader general merchandise sector gained 1.2 percent.
“We are seeing some fundamental weakness that reflects the fact that the economy lost 525,000 jobs from January though April,” said Sara Johnson, managing director of the global macroeconomics group at Global Insight in Lexington, Mass. “Income growth has stalled and consumers are nervous about economic outlooks, so they cut spending and save more of their income.”
She noted month-to-month sales have been volatile this year and attributed March’s uptick in retail sales to “catch-up for a weather-related drop in February.” She added that April’s drop was partly affected by cooler-than-normal weather in the Northeast. Johnson said there are some bright spots that could help create a recovery, such as a rebound in the stock market and low interest rates.
Frank Badillo, senior economist at Retail Forward, said the volatility in the monthly sales numbers is hard to decipher, but noted that the underlying cause is weakness in the consumer environment.
“Fundamentally, the job market affects confidence,” he said. “But we’ve seen, even though consumers have a flagging confidence pattern, they are also opportunists.”
That pattern also holds true for apparel purchases, he said.
“Where there is a strong reason to buy, people will buy,” Badillo noted. “We see some strength among certain retailers who have struck a chord with certain segments, such as teens or boomers, or they have stronger fashion than they did in the past and they are able to generate strong gains.”In the coming months, retail apparel sales could be affected by inventory levels, which started to decline after the holiday and into spring, he said.
“With demand falling off, while inventories decline, there is more downward pressure on prices, which makes it tough to grow sales in the coming months,” Badillo said. “Consumers will respond and take advantage of price cuts, but all those price cuts will be a drag on sales and ultimately profits.”
Overall, retail sales fell 0.1 percent from the previous month, but were up 4.1 percent against April 2002. Excluding autos and gas, retail sales were down 0.4 percent, according to Badillo.
“At some point, it will bottom out but remain weak for awhile,” said Badillo. “As we get further away from the winter effects and war effects, we will start to see a true trend emerge, but it will not be a pretty one. I expect to see weakness persist through the summer months.”
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye