U.S. retailers appear on track for a steady but unspectacular back-to-school season.
The stores that still report comparable-store sales results on a monthly basis today are expected to report a mean increase of 3.6 percent for June, according to Thomson Reuters. Research and tracking organizations expect the increase for b-t-s to fall within a point of that mark for the period, with last year’s strong showing of a 5.9 percent increase in GAFO (general merchandise, apparel, furniture and related merchandise) and only marginally stronger job data holding increases for the school year in check. Improved consumer confidence and some pent-up demand, however, should work in retailers’ favor.
“The economy and consumer spending are like a car stuck between first and second gear,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners in New Canaan, Conn. “They’re not in neutral and they’re certainly not in reverse, but they’re in the midst of anemic, mediocre growth.”
Johnson expects b-t-s sales to increase 3.4 percent next month as growth in consumers’ real disposable income has languished at about 0.7 percent. Last year, he noted, b-t-s sales grew 4.2 percent with disposable income up a slightly better 1.6 percent. His projection excludes categories not directly affected by b-t-s purchases such as automobiles, restaurants, food and home improvement.