WASHINGTON — Uneven December retail sales results did not give apparel stores, or Wall Street, a green light to celebrate.
Department store sales were flat compared with November and declined 1.2 percent to $15.74 million compared with a year earlier, the Commerce Department said Thursday. Specialty store sales dropped 0.6 percent for the month, but rose 5 percent to $17.46 million year-over-year.
The industry’s less-than-stellar sales result helped push retail stocks down 0.5 percent Thursday.
“There is a gloom that is still sitting in our consumer economy,” said Kevin Regan, senior managing director and retail industry expert with FTI Consulting. “We’re going to be in a slow recovery. December was a good omen, but I’m not convinced that it is a sign of a trend.”
While the macroeconomy struggles with 10 percent unemployment and housing foreclosures, it would be risky for stores to be aggressive, he said.
“Retailers view the spring with caution,” Regan said.
Retail associations said they saw signs of improvement through the holiday season as merchants focused on inventory management and discounting.
“With an eye on managing inventory and maintaining lower price points, retailers did a tremendous job of planning for the holiday season,” said Rosalind Wells, chief economist for the National Retail Federation. But, she cautioned, “while the consumer appears to be spending again, double-digit unemployment numbers will remain an impediment to maintaining this momentum.”
The Retail Industry Leaders Association described December sales results as “subdued.”
December retail sales of all goods and services in the U.S. fell 0.3 percent compared with the previous month, but were up 5.4 percent from a year earlier to $353 billion. Total sales for 2009 declined 6.2 percent compared with 2008.
“While the overall trend is in the right direction, today’s retail sales data show that we have more work to do,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.
In New York on Thursday, the S&P Retail Index slid 1.95 points to 409.43 as the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.3 percent, or 29.78 points, to 10,710.55. Tokyo turned the strongest performance among the major international markets, with the Nikkei 225 rising 1.6 percent to 10,907.68.
Target Corp. ran countertrend among U.S. retail stocks and rose 1.5 percent to $50.10 after restarting its stock buyback program. The cheap-chic retailer has about $5.1 billion left under its $10 billion buyback program, which was put on hold in November 2008 to protect the firm’s liquidity position and debt rating.
Although overall apparel sales are still not great, the trendline is much better than it was during the financial crisis and recession. That normalization has helped stabilize vendor performance and pushed Moody’s Investors Service to raise its credit outlook for U.S. apparel producers to “stable” from “negative.” Moody’s cited the industry’s efforts to cut costs and control inventories, which should lessen markdown exposure and aid profitability. The credit rating agency also said firms focusing on moderate price points would outperform those in the luxury tier.
“The consumer’s not great, but there’s nothing that I see that says we’re falling off a cliff,” said Scott Tuhy, a Moody’s debt analyst.
Tuhy said the industry had a “sharp, quick fall” and will have “slow sluggish growth out.”
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“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