Blame Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the distracting election, unseasonably warm weather, strategy changes by individual chains or the continuing migration to e-commerce, but retail sales and traffic continued to fall off in October.
RetailNext — which tracks sales and traffic activity in U.S. stores by analyzing more than 14 million shopping trips — said sales fell 8 percent last month as traffic declined 8.5 percent. The total average transaction value was also down 1.5 percent.
The declines were in keeping with the general trend, which saw sales fall 10.6 percent in September, 6 percent in August, 7.1 percent in July and 8.2 percent in June as more shoppers go online, are more targeted in their mall shopping and opt for experiences and apps over the latest look.
RetailNext’s numbers are drawn heavily from the specialty store sector and only count brick-and-mortar results.
Shelley Kohan, vice president of retail consulting at RetailNext, said the month’s decline in average transaction value stood out as “pretty significant” and blamed the warmer weather in part.
Last month ranked as the warmest October in the U.S. in 55 years, with the Northeast, Midwest and South all seeing generally warmer temperatures, according to the analytics firm. The South also saw particularly wet weather, with Hurricane Matthew roaring into Florida and up the coast to North Carolina early in the month.
Kohan predicted that results would start to improve as people break out of the election mind-set and refocus on shopping headed into the holiday season.
Few retailers still report their monthly same-store sales, but those that did recorded mixed results.
L Brands Inc.’s October comps rose 1 percent, with the Victoria’s Secret division posting a 1 percent decline as it felt the impact of the decision to cut back on promotions and exit its swim and apparel businesses.
The firm also trimmed third-quarter earnings guidance about 40 cents per share, the lower end of prior expectations, and saw its stock drop for the fourth straight day, losing 0.9 percent to $65.09 Thursday. Since last week, shares of L Brands have declined 11.7 percent.
The 470-door The Buckle Inc. took a much harder sales hit and saw its comps fall 15.5 percent for the month, slightly worse than the Thomson Reuters estimate for a 14.3 percent drop.
The month’s silver lining came from the 688-door teen chain Zumiez Inc., which drove comps up 10.2 percent, outperforming estimates for a 3 percent increase.
Investors took both the good and the bad in stride and traded shares of Buckle down 1.2 percent to $20.10 after its decline and pushed Zumiez’s stock up 2.2 percent to $23.20 after its upside surprise.
Gap Inc. will add its results to the mix when it releases October comps on Monday.
The Census Bureau will have the final word on Nov. 15, when it offers its reading of retail sales for the broader economy, which economists project will show a 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted rise over the prior month.