STORES SEE DIP IN NOVEMBER SALES
Byline: Kristi Ellis
WASHINGTON — Unseasonably warm weather combined with the impact of the recession dampened already-weak sales at apparel and accessories stores in November.
Sales at apparel and accessories stores fell a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent, to $14.07 billion in November, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Compared with November 2000, the decline was 0.8 percent.
“As we all know, the weather factor [led to] weak apparel retail sales, while the strength was in sales of home furnishings, electronics and sporting goods,” said Rosalind Wells, chief economist at the National Retail Federation.
Overall retail sales, excluding food services, plunged sharply by 4.1 percent in November, to $266.88 billion.
Department store sales, excluding leased departments, bucked the trend and posted a 1.5 percent seasonally adjusted increase, to $19.74 billion. Compared with November 2000, department store sales fell 0.4 percent. General-merchandise store sales declined 0.1 percent in November, to $34.99 billion.
“Department stores had a respectable gain, but that was due to promotions,” said Carl Steidtman, chief economist at Deloitte Research. “On a year-over-year basis, department stores will have, at best, a modest gain.”
Steidtman also predicted that apparel and accessories store sales will continue declining because they planned down for Christmas and don’t have the inventory to post sales gains.
“There will be a continuation of these trends in December, with goods related to the home outperforming apparel,” said Wells. “But should we get a break from the weather, we could see apparel sales pick up a bit.”
Charles W. McMillion, chief economist with MGB Information Services, painted a bleaker picture.
“It is not shaping up to be a good holiday season for apparel retailers either in price points or in volume sales,” he said. “So, I strongly suspect a real shakeout in the retail sector after the first of the year.”