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.
“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