WASHINGTON — Retail sales in January were driven by gains at department and general merchandise stores, while specialty store sales fell as younger consumers, hampered by severe winter storms and high unemployment, held back on picking up postholiday bargains, according to economists.
Department store sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent last month compared with December to $15.5 billion, while sales at general merchandise stores, a category that includes discounters and department stores, increased 0.8 percent to $51.7 billion, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday.
However, specialty store sales continued showing signs of weakness, posting a second month in a row of declines. Sales at apparel and accessories stores fell 0.3 percent to $18.3 billion.
In comparisons with January 2010, sales at specialty stores were up 3.4 percent, while sales at general merchandise stores increased 3.1 percent, but sales at department stores fell 0.8 percent.
“General merchandise and department stores showed significant gains in January after running into negative territory in December,” said Chris G. Christopher Jr., senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight.
Other winners in January were online retailers “that benefited from post-Christmas shopping and inclement weather,” said Christopher, adding that “staying at home boosts Internet shopping as long as ice storms do not knock out the electricity.”
Kevin Regan, senior managing director and retail industry expert at FTI Consulting, said there was a softening in annual comparisons in all three retail store categories.
“The general merchandise category is somewhat soft and department store sales continue to disappoint a bit,” said Regan, adding there have been some bright spots at retail.
Stores like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus had “reasonably good January numbers,” he said.
But apparel specialty stores have also been softening, due in part to shrinking discretionary budgets of unemployed younger people, he said.
“January is always a return month and there could have been some weather-related impact, but the Millennials are spending less because of their condition [unemployment],” said Regan.
In the overall economy, retail sales rose 0.3 percent last month, but the increase fell below economists’ expectations. Economists had projected a stronger sales gain in January because it was the first month consumers were benefiting from a Social Security tax cut in their paychecks. However, severe winter weather across much of the country kept consumers at home and contributed to the weaker retail sales.
The S&P Retail Index inched up 0.23 points to 523.43 Tuesday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3 percent, or 41.55 points, to 12,226.64.
The day’s retail decliners included The Talbots Inc., off 4.5 percent to $5.79; Abercrombie & Fitch Co., 2 percent to $53.41; Macy’s Inc., 1.3 percent to $23.55, and The Men’s Wearhouse Inc., 1.1 percent to $27.20.
Among the larger increases came from Perry Ellis International Inc., up 5.2 percent to $30.81 following its elevation of earnings guidance late Monday, and Joe’s Jeans Inc., up 3.5 percent to $1.20.
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
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Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
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