Thursday, October 07, 2004

One more nail in the coffin of the "soft patch" set's analysis for the third quarter.
Consumers proved to be a frugal bunch in September as a heap of retailers delivered disappointing sales results and some warned that earnings were coming up short of expectations.

The sluggish results were widespread -- with some bright exceptions -- to seal a slowdown trend in consumer spending that began in June and goes beyond hurricanes on one coast and warm weather on another.

"The soft patch remains in place for the retail sector at this point," said Michael Niemira, chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers.

With 71 of the nation's largest chain stores reporting, Niemira said same-stores sales climbed 2.4 percent for the month. That's better than what he thought would happen as late as Tuesday, but the results are spotty and show a clear divide between the haves and have-nots. . . . At Thomson First Call, the final tally came in at 2.1 percent higher, below a final projection late Wednesday of 2.3 percent that had been trimmed a number of times throughout the month. . . .

. . . department stores were mostly dismal . . .
Monthly growth in retail and food service sales (SA) for 2004 thus far:

January . . . . 0.5%
February . . . . 1.0%
March . . . . . 2.1%
April . . . . . -0.8%
May . . . . . . 1.4%
June . . . . . -0.7%
July . . . . . . 0.8%

July '03 to July '04: 6.7%

As you can see, most of the retail sales growth over the last year came in 2003 and early 2004. Since March, annualized growth is just 2.1%.

The official August retail sales figures come out tomorrow, 9am. I expect that annualized rate will grow even smaller.

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