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Gains in weekly retail sales are slight, and outlook is dim

by Meaghan M. Norman
Oct 14, 2008

Retail Avg Sales 3

Meaghan Norman/Medill

Many companies face slumping sales including Illinois-based chains, Sears and K-Mart.  Walgreen Co. on the other hand has seen continual growth.

Echoing other recent retail sales reports, the International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs said weekly U.S. chain same-store sales increased 0.7 percent from last week, the largest weekly gain since July 26. Year-over-year growth was only 1 percent, the weakest growth since May 10.

The ICSC-Goldman Sachs index for the week ended Oct. 11 is 484.7 compared with last week's 481.5.

While there's growth, the outlook is weak at best, the report stated.

"Over the past week, consumer traffic improved for staples (grocery and drug stores) while other shopping venues had mixed results," said Michael Niemira, ICSC's chief economist.  "However, traffic was noticeably lower at electronics and office supply stores, modestly lower at department stores, discounters and wholesale clubs."

Niemira forecasts October same-store sales to rise between 1 percent and 2 percent over October of last year.  While this is not great, Niemira said, this is consistent with the recent two-month trend.  In August the year-over-year gain was 1.6 percent. In September there was a 1.3 percent rise and so far for October there is a 0.6 percent change.

The report stated that the average monthly percent change of K-Mart store sales is a decrease of 6.4 percent as compared with a 4.6 percent decline last year.  Sears Holding Corp. has an average drop of 8.3 percent, more than the 5.6 percent fall last year.  Walgreen Corp. is doing better with a monthly increase of 3.4 percent as compared with a rise last year of 6.1 percent.

While September chain store sales on a yearly comparable-store basis rose by a minimal percentage, excluding Wal-Mart, the industry posted a 1 percent decline.

ICSC experts estimate that for October, Target Corp. will have zero percent growth in comparable-store sales but Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will see a 1.5 percent increase.  Kohl’s Corp. and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. are likely to see a decline in sales of 3 percent each.

The ICSC Executive Opinion Survey targeted shopping center owners and developers, and found that business conditions continue to deteriorate.

“Looking ahead to the next six months, shopping-center executives remain uneasy about a quick rebound in retail real estate business conditions,” said Monika Sinkiewicz, research assistant for the ICSC.

The future expectations index dropped to 33.4 percent, a decline of 6.3 percentage points from the previous month. In September, the index for the evaluation of current conditions was 31.7 percent, down from 38.3 percent in August.

The indices range from zero percent to 100 percent.  A reading of 50 percent indicates a relatively unchanged period, whereas below 50 percent suggests deterioration and above 50 percent means an improvement in industry conditions.