WASHINGTON — Spurring optimism among economists that consumers may be shaking off their shopping doldrums, the Commerce Department reported Thursday that retail sales in May at apparel and accessory stores increased a seasonally adjusted 1 percent.
The federal government also revised its April apparel and accessory store retail sales numbers, which now reflect only a 1.8 percent monthly decline instead of a 3.2 percent drop as first reported. Department store and general merchandise store sales, off in April by 1.2 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively, rebounded in May with sales at both increasing 0.7 percent for the month.
The May retail numbers were “better than most anticipated,” said Rosalind Wells, chief economist with the National Retail Federation. “If we had had more seasonable weather, the numbers probably would have looked even better. I think…we’ll see a stronger second half.”
A combination of falling gas prices, low interest rates and newly passed tax cuts should help strengthen consumer confidence, Wells said.
“The big problem is still the employment sector,” she said. “We have to see that strengthen, but that’s the last thing we’ll see improve as a lagging indicator.”
All retail sales in May increased 0.1 percent for the month, reflecting a 4.3 percent drop in gasoline prices, which are still 4.7 percent above year-ago levels.
Compared with May 2002, sales at apparel and accessory stores last month increased 2.1 percent. Department store sales over the year were down 4.3 percent in May and general merchandise stores posted a year-over-year gain of 3.6 percent.
Retail sales have been following a roller-coaster pattern for more than a year. Since the end of the war in Iraq, retailers, economists and federal officials have been wondering whether consumers would shake off their uncertainty and start buying again in earnest.
The positive retail sales numbers indicate “the economy is beginning to recover,” said Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University.
However, given the huge markdowns in apparel prices, Dhawan noted retail profit margins continue to lag and aren’t yet being boosted significantly by increased volume. Dhawan forecast a “slow and steady recovery by the end of the year,” barring any significant events like a resurgence of SARS or conflicts. The period of economic uncertainty, he said, “is by no means all over.”
@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