Retail Sales Bouncing Back, Fashion Still Falling

Retail sales have pulled back to par for the year, but fashion’s brick and mortar stores are still working off a big deficit as consumer habits have changed in the pandemic.

The overall bounce back continued in October with total retail and food service sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent compared with September and marked a 5.7 percent rise from a year ago, according to the Census Bureau’s latest monthly reading Tuesday.

For the year so far, retail and food service sales are flat with the first 10 months of 2019 — a remarkable showing considering not only the lockdown in the spring, but just how hard the economy has been hit by the pandemic. The unemployment rate shot from 4.4 percent in March to 14.7 percent in April and has yet to recover, currently standing at 6.9 percent. 

Fashion retailers, though, saw sales fall harder — and they’re still going down .

Apparel and accessories specialty stores sales logged a 4.2 percent decline from September and were down 12.6 percent from a year ago. But so far this year, the sector is down 30 percent. 

October department stores sales dropped 4.6 percent from September and were off 11.9 percent from a year earlier. So far this year, department stores are down 17 percent. 

The biggest and strongest retailers have managed to reestablish themselves enough to look to better times next year.

Kohl’s Corp. eked out a third-quarter profit — on an adjusted basis — and said it was planning to bring back its dividend in the first half.

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