January at retail showed signs that the coming recession might finally have arrived as retailers in general posted comparable store sales declines for the month. Due to the 53rd week in 2006, net sales results for the four-week January month this year compared to a five-week month last year, which made it nearly impossible to post a net sales gain, but comps were still down for many retailers even on a similar calendar basis.
According to a survey of 43 chain stores conducted by the International Council of Shopping Centers, comp store sales increased only 0.5% for fiscal January, referring to the month as the weakest reading since April 2007 when comps declined 1.9% and the weakest January since the data began being collected in 1969.
For the full fiscal year, the average monthly growth rate for U.S. chain store sales was 2.1%, much slower than the 3.6% pace seen last fiscal year with an even more worrying slowdown in average growth to 1.5% seen between September and January.
Wholesale Clubs managed a 6.3% comps increase for the month, but it was the only segment of the market to see any life. Discount Chains saw flat comps for fiscal January, but most every other channel was in the red. Even the Luxury retailers, which until now had seemed mostly insulated from the economic worries, posted a 2.2% decline in January comps. According to the ICSC data, overall Department Store comparable store sales, which includes Lux retailers, decreased 5.7%, while Apparel Chain stores saw a 3.8% decline, and Teen retailers saw a collective 2.6% slump for the month.
According to retail point-of-sale data compiled by SportScanINFO, Sport Footwear sales for January were down in very-low-single-digits versus the comp month last year. SportScanINFO measures like-for-like four-week periods. Full-line sporting goods saw the largest decline, down in the low to mid-singles, just a bit worse than the mall. Family retailers and discount/mass retailers both posted mid-single-digit gains for the month. Excluding the impact of the implosion of Heelys, the sporting goods guys saw Sport Footwear sales improve in the low-single-digits for the month.
Heelys, which just started selling to the mid-tier in the fourth quarter, accounted for two points of the family retailer growth for January. Sport Apparel sales were up in low-singles for the month, led by mid to high-single-digit gains at full-line sporting goods.