As consumers bask in the lazy days of summer, weekly chain store sales continued to decline, according to The Retail Economist-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index.
Meanwhile, in a separate report, several specialty retailers were found to be unloading their spring and summer apparel, but were doing so without eroding price points — especially Urban Outfitters Inc., which saw stronger average prices for men’s and women’s wear.
For the week ended July 16, the weekly sales index fell 0.5 percent compared to the prior week. Year-over-year, the “sales advanced by a sluggish 1.5 percent,” said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist of The Retail Economist LLC.
“With back-to-school shopping expected to kick in late in July and continue through early September, it appears consumers have taken a shopping pause again during this past week,” Niemira said adding that his firm is projecting a 2.5 percent gain in b-t-s sales, which compares to a 2.6 percent increase last year. Niemira said his projection is based on “U.S. Census Bureau data for electronics, family clothing, books and shoe store sales.”
Regarding price points and markdowns, a monthly pricing survey for July by Eric Beder, equity analyst at Wunderlich Securities Inc., found that three of the six specialty retailers tracked showed increases in average unit retail prices for the month.
New York & Company Inc., Urban Outfitters Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch Inc. all had AURs that showed year-over-year gains for the month. Guess Inc., Hollister and American Eagle Outfitters Inc. all declined.
Beder noted that New York & Co.’s AUR gained 29.9 percent for July while Urban Outfitters rose 2.7 percent and Abercrombie & Fitch increased 13.5 percent.
With Urban Outfitters, Beder said the “retailer supplemented 2.1 percent growth in the women’s product segment with 4.6 percent [AUR] growth in the men’s segment, and was actually the only teen retailer surveyed to post positive AUR growth in both the men’s and women’s segments during the month.”
At Abercrombie & Fitch, the analyst noted a “26 percent [AUR] gain in women’s item pricing served to offset an 6 percent decline in the retailer’s men’s item price array, a factor that is much in-line with the bifurcation of performance [between genders] that has been continuously highlighted by management in previous quarterly conference calls.”