October 11, 2013

Retailers’ sales data bodes ill for holidays

The Associated Press

A limited but respected survey shows September’s consumer spending rose more slowly than August’s.

NEW YORK – Several retailers reported modest sales gains for September as shoppers who were worried about a partial government shutdown and the overall economy pulled back their spending from the prior month.

The results increase concerns about how shoppers will spend during the crucial holiday season, the largest selling period for retailers.

Revenue at stores opened at least a year – a measure of a retailer’s health – rose 2.7 percent in September, according to a preliminary tally of nine retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers. That was a slower pace than the 3.5 percent increase posted in August.

L Brands, the parent of Victoria’s Secret, and Costco Wholesale Corp. were among the chains that reported results that failed to meet Wall Street estimates, while Stein Mart Inc. posted results that beat analysts’ expectations.

Only a sliver of retail chains report monthly sales figures, and the list doesn’t include Walmart Stores, Macy’s Inc. and many other large chains. But it offers some clues into consumer spending heading into the holiday shopping season.

L Brands reported that revenue at stores opened at least a year rose just 1 percent in September, below the 2 percent gain that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected. Costco Wholesale Corp. reported Wednesday that revenue at its stores rose 3 percent, below the 3.7 percent gain that was anticipated by Wall Street.

September was a difficult month. Warmer-than-usual weather hurt sales of sweaters and other fall clothes. But economic concerns also dampened sales.

And while the job and housing markets are improving, that hasn’t yet translated into sustained spending increases among most shoppers.

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