Nordstrom was the strongest performer among department stores in the first quarter.

Weekly sales fell slightly last week, but showed a year-over-year gain, according to the The Retail Economist‐Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index. The uptick comes as analysts eye the impact of two key retail events: Nordstrom’s anniversary sale and Amazon Prime Day.

According to one analyst, both events show a lack of clear fashion trends for fall as well as the ongoing dominance of the ath-leisure trend.

For the period ended Saturday, July 8, weekly sales fell 0.2 percent compared to the prior week. Year-over-year, sales showed a 2.9 percent gain. Michael P. Niemira, chief economist of The Retail Economist LLC, observed year-over-year “chain stores posted their strongest aggregate sales pace since matching their October 1, 2017 performance. This followed a healthy improvement in the prior week as well.”

Niemira went on to say that although it “may be too soon to say the industry is moving out of its doldrums, it certainly is a promising and encouraging sign.” Meanwhile, investors have their sights set on Nordstrom and Amazon.

Corinna Freedman, equity analyst at Berenberg Capital Markets LLC, said in her market update report that Nordstrom’s anniversary sale and corresponding catalogue “have historically signaled trends in fall inventory sell-ins and pricing. We highlight a more edited premium branded assortment this year offset by a 20 percent increase in private label offerings.”

Freedman said the push of private label is in line with market trends “as department stores are replacing brands with higher margin private label items (similar to Macy’s stated initiatives).”

She went on to say that “bottoms trends are dominated by denim, while a continued increase in athletic footwear stockkeeping units was also apparent, albeit off of a small base. Fashion footwear trends, [Nordstrom’s] strongest heritage category, continue to be dominated by athletic-inspired slip-on styles and a significantly increased assortment of flats and mules, which we believe represents the most newness we have seen in several years and bodes well for fall footwear sales; however, we remain cautious given a continued lack of overarching fashion apparel trend.”

In a separate research report from Deborah Weinswig, managing director at Fung Global Retail & Technology, the analyst noted a push by Amazon on the private label front. Weinswig said in apparel, the online giant is “flagging up 40 to 50 percent discounts on clothing, footwear and accessories. Amazon’s private labels, such as Amazon Essentials, Buttoned Down (men’s shirts), Lark & Ro (womenswear) and Mae (lingerie) dominate the deals in fashion.”

She went on to say the key takeaway looks to be that “Amazon is using Prime Day as a springboard for its still-new, private-label apparel ranges, and encouraging customers to trial the brands at appealing prices.” Weinswig said a focus on private label is also apparent with Amazon’s home textiles business.

In Freedman’s analysis, she said “fueling investors’ channel disruption uncertainty, Amazon’s Prime Day appears to be offering deeper branded footwear and apparel discounts this year versus last, according to the early deals released. However, this does not include deals announced periodically during the event. In particular, we highlight the addition of 30 percent off athletic apparel offers for Adidas and Under Armour.”

Freedman also said it was important to consider that in the current market, “only the strongest brands will be able to convert sales from department stores into individual [direct-to-consumer] sales; and [that a] lack of a clear fall fashion trend continues to fuel our comfort with an elongated tail of the ath-leisure trend.”

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