WASHINGTON — Retail sales plunged dramatically in October as the realities of the economic crisis took hold and drove specialty apparel sales down 1.4 percent compared with September, and fueled a 1.3 percent drop in department store sales, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Friday.
Compared with a year earlier, specialty retailers reported a 4 percent decline in sales to $18.1 billion and department stores fell 6.9 percent to $16.2 billion.
Overall sales for retail and food service providers fell 2.8 percent in October from the previous month to $363.7 billion. Total sales tumbled 4.1 percent from October 2007. Economists said October showed the worst monthly drop since 1992 when Commerce reclassified how it tracked stores. Others said the last time retail sales fell this much was January 1987. Those results were a one-month anomaly, but earlier in that decade a severe recession and high inflation lead to comparably negative sales numbers.
“There was a big retrenchment by consumers in October , which caused retail sales to decline at a pace we haven’t seen since the early 1980s,” said Ben Garber, an economist with Moody’s Investor Services.
Prior to the 2.8 percent decrease in sales for October, the worst decline had been a 1.8 percent drop in September 2001 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Charles McMillion, president and chief economist at MBG Information Services.
The overall decline was driven primarily by a precipitous drop in auto sales, but weakness was seen in all retail categories.
“Consumers were already fighting to keep their heads above water in the third quarter, and in October they were thrown several heavy cement blocks in the form of steep declines in employment and hours worked, further declines in house prices and a massive negative shock to household net financial assets,” said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist at IHS Global Insight.
In comparison to other retail categories, clothing stores reported smaller losses. Sales at home furnishing stores dropped 2.5 percent from September and 13.5 percent year-over-year. Motor vehicle sales fell off a cliff, dropping 6.2 percent from the prior month and free-falling 25.6 percent compared with the same period in 2007.
Consumers continued to trade down from luxury and middle market retailers. General merchandise stores provided one of the few bright spots for retail last month, dropping 0.4 percent from September but increasing 2.3 percent year-over-year. General merchandise sales figures include department stores and discounters. Miscellaneous store retailers also reported positive sales, increasing 0.7 percent in October compared with the prior month. The increase was not surprising given that the category includes used merchandise stores like consignment and resale shops that have anecdotally reported elevated sales, said Richard Yamarone, director of research at Argus Research Corp.
Despite those results, there are few positives for apparel retailers.
“Judging from the downward revisions by Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, Abercrombie & Fitch, Best Buy and Nordstrom, things aren’t going to be so jolly this Christmas season,” Yamarone said. “Gone are the days of the ever-dependable consumer. They can no longer be counted upon to play Atlas and prop the global economy on their shoulders.”
“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