WASHINGTON — Economists and retail experts said unseasonably cold weather in March led to the 0.4 percent decline in retail sales reflected in the Commerce Department’s monthly report released on Friday.
The weather dampened consumer demand and drove down sales at department stores a seasonably adjusted 1.1 percent to $14.6 billion last month and declined 1.2 percent to $51.1 billion at general merchandise stores, a category that includes discounters and department stores.
Apparel and accessories stores bucked the trend, edging up 0.1 percent to $20.3 billion last month.
“I think cold weather seemed to have a role in this,” said Andrew Fitzpatrick, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates. “It was a little disappointing and it really put a damper on the bottom line for retailers.”
Fitzpatrick said department stores “got weighed down by increasing margins and prices.”
“It has been a really challenging environment for these retailers who are trying to generate growth and higher profits,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said the sales growth in the specialty store category was likely due to a strength in demand for pieces that were not sensitive to weather, such as accessories and nonessential items.
“They have also found a nice niche with some of these goods that tend to attract buyers who know what they are looking for,” Fitzpatrick said.
Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, said, “The fall off in spending is no surprise. A colder-than-usual winter, an anemic employment picture and delays in tax refunds impacted consumer spending across the board in March. While we remain optimistic that retail sales will grow modestly this year, it seems like the economy is off to a shaky start as we enter the second quarter.”
In the overall economy, retail sales fell 0.4 percent in March to $418.3 billion, after rising in February.
“The weakness in March retail sales was across the board with restaurants and furniture being the exceptions,” said Chris G. Christopher, senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight. “Falling pump prices and a relatively strong stock market did not help retailers very much in March.”
Christopher said there were “positives” in consumer spending and demand, such as falling gasoline prices, a stronger stock market, improving housing market and modest inflation, although the overall outlook has worsened.
“This is a bad report,” he added. “Before this report, our first quarter real consumer spending growth outlook was standing at 3.3 percent. Now our forecast is standing at 2.8 percent.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast