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ICSC Sees Soft Trend for Department, Apparel Stores in Week

Overall, year-on-year sales rise 2.3% while sequential sales off 0.3%.

Department and apparel stores experienced tough sales trends last week as overall business rose 2.3 percent over a year ago but fell 0.3 percent from the prior week.

The International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs chain store sales index for the week ended Saturday registered its best year-on-year increase in more than two months while at the same time including its first sequential decline in four weeks.

“As temperatures turned seasonally warmer for the week, retail business was stronger for discounters, dollar stores, wholesale clubs, office and furniture stores relative to the same week of the prior year,” said Michael Niemira, vice president of research and chief economist at ICSC.

Strength in those channels was offset by weakness in department, apparel and drug stores, all of which tracked lower on a year-on-year basis, he noted.

The survey revealed stronger results in areas where weather moderated, as in the western half of the U.S., and a marked absence of demand for seasonal merchandise in areas where cooler weather lingered, as in many sections of the eastern U.S.

Department and specialty stores generated more promotional activity than in the comparable 2013 week but less than in the first week of April, according to the SaleTally-ICSC Promotion Index.

Higher gas prices continued to restrain consumers’ propensity to spend, ICSC reported.

On Monday, the Commerce Department reported a 1.1 percent increase in retail sales last month, dominated by a 3.1 percent rise in auto-related sales. Last week, stores reporting comparable sales for March in many cases reported declines against the 2013 month, which was bolstered by an early Easter.