Saturday, August 15, 2009

Retailers Expect Slow Back-to-School Sales

by Calculated Risk on 8/15/2009 12:29:00 AM

From the NY Times: Retailers See Slowing Sales in Back-to-School Season

Halfway through the back-to-school shopping season, retail professionals are predicting the worst performance for stores in more than a decade ...

The National Retail Federation, an industry group, expects the average family with school-age children to spend nearly 8 percent less this year than last. And ShopperTrak, a research company, predicted customer traffic would be down 10 percent from a year ago.

“This is going to be the worst back-to-school season in many, many years,” said Craig F. Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retailing consultant firm.
From the National Retail Federation: NRF's 2009 Back-to-School and Back-to-College Surveys
According to the National Retail Federation’s 2009 Back to School Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, the average family with students in grades Kindergarten through 12 is expected to spend $548.72 on school merchandise, a decline of 7.7 percent from $594.24 in 2008. ...

According to the survey, the economy is having a major impact on back-to-school spending as four out of five Americans (85%) have made some changes to back-to-school plans this year as a result. Some of those changes impact spending, with 56.2 percent of back-to-school shoppers hunting for sales more often, 49.6 percent planning to spend less overall, 41.7 percent purchasing more store brand/generic products and 40.0 percent are planning to increase their use of coupons. Others say the economy has impacted lifestyle decisions, with 11.4 percent saying children will cut back on extracurricular activities or sports and 5.7 percent saying that the economy is impacting whether their children will attend a private or public school.

“The economy has clearly changed the spending habits of American families, which will likely create a difficult back-to-school season for retailers,” said Tracy Mullin, President and CEO of NRF.
There are some positive signs for the economy - like new home sales, auto sales increasing, and industrial production/capacity utilization possibly bottoming out - but without the consumer, any recovery will be sluggish at best.