WASHINGTON — Specialty apparel retailers reported small sales gains in July, but department stores struggled and yearly comparisons reflected the impact of the recession.
Sales at specialty stores increased a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent in July compared with June, while department stores fell 1.6 percent, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
In 12-month comparisons, sales at specialty stores fell 7.6 percent to $17.13 billion. Department store sales declined 11.5 percent to $15.13 billion compared with a year earlier.
Even the broader general merchandise category, which includes discounters like Wal-Mart and Target in addition to department store sales, showed a drop of 0.8 percent in July compared with June. The category declined 4.7 percent to $48.37 billion versus a year earlier.
“Consumer spending is still weak, and I don’t know any reason why it should be changing,” said Kevin Regan, senior managing director and retail industry expert with FTI Consulting. “The consumer really is going through a change in the way they approach their shopping habits because they are still deleveraging a lot. They are thriftier, they’re not as aspirational, and they look at things in a more disciplined way. People are just not shopping today unless they really have to.”
Consumers continue to buy basic items and necessities, but they are careful to spend only what they can afford, Regan said.
“Discretionary consumer spending is weak, especially as it pertains to apparel and general merchandise,” said John Lonski, chief economist with Moody’s Investor Services.
The employment picture, including income levels, needs to consistently improve before discretionary spending rises, he said.
The small increase in apparel sales during July could be the result of some back-to-school shoppers taking advantage of sales, said Richard Yamarone, director of economic research at Argus Research Corp.
Consumers have been programmed by recent trends to look for bargains when shopping, economists said. The government’s Consumer Price Index, which tracks retail prices, is to be released today.
All retail and food service providers reported a worse than expected 0.1 percent decrease in July versus June. Compared with a year ago, total sales dropped 8.3 percent to $342.3 billion.
The July results “pour more cold water” on predictions of recovery, said Charles McMillion, president and chief economist with MBG Information Services.
Economists said the broader sales figures for all retail and food service providers declined despite increased sales in the motor vehicles sector that benefited from “cash for clunkers” subsidies, which encouraged consumers to trade in their cars for more fuel efficient models.
“The cash-for-clunkers trade-in program led to a significant spark in sales in the hard-pressed motor vehicle industry,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said on Thursday.
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)
@heriethpaul and @gracebol have a moment on the @victoriassecret fashion show 2017. See every look from the runway on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo) #wwdfashion #victoriassecret #VSFashionShow
“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