WASHINGTON — Consumers continued to spend cautiously in May, as specialty stores and department stores posted slight sales declines, but discounters saw a small uptick, the Commerce Department’s monthly report released Thursday showed.
Sales at apparel and accessories stores fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in May to $20.7 billion. Sales at department stores declined 0.2 percent to $14.7 billion. The only sign of strength was in the general merchandise category, which includes discounters and department stores, which rose 0.5 percent in May to $55 billion.
In May, sales at specialty stores were 3.8 percent higher than in May 2012 on a seasonally adjusted basis, while sales at general merchandise stores were up 1.1 percent and sales at department stores were down 3.9 percent year over year.
“When you look at the numbers overall for apparel and accessories stores…there is some evidence of a slowdown,” said Kevin Regan, senior managing director at FTI Consulting.
John Lonksi, chief economist at Moody’s Capital Markets Group, said apparel and accessories store sales had two strong prior months — up 0.7 percent in Mach and 1 percent in April.
“On an annualized basis, that would be growth of 8 to 12 percent, and that is simply not sustainable,” Lonski said. “That dip in May was simply a correction that lowered apparel store sales to a more sustainable level.”
Discounters continued to hold up the general merchandise category.
“Major discounters [such as Wal-Mart and Target] are appealing to a vast majority of consumers,” Regan said. “Department stores were down again. Sears and J.C. Penney are the two that are having a tough time performing with any kind of success and that continues to drag down the group.”
In the overall economy, retail sales rose 0.6 percent to $421.1 billion.
“Stronger employment data and increasing home and equity prices lifted confidence and spending this spring,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation. “The economy is improving, albeit slowly, but we still have a long way to go. Stagnant salaries continue to constrain further economic acceleration. While sequester [government spending cuts] and tax increases dampened sales growth in the first quarter, it appears that the economy absorbed most of the blow.”
Leslie Levesque, senior economist at IHS Global Insight, said consumers are not buying big-ticket items, apart from autos.
Instead they are “buying more of what they need rather than what they want,” she said. “However, consumers have been gaining confidence. The outlook on labor market conditions has improved and consumers are considerably more optimistic in their economic outlook. There are several positives on the consumer front: Inflation is low, gasoline prices have been accommodative, the housing market is looking brighter and the stock market is strong. Looking ahead, we expect real consumer spending growth in the 2 to 2.5 percent range for the year.”
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye