Oct. ’23 Retail Report: Early Deliveries Boost Sales

The Big Picture

Despite war abroad and government chaos at home, the U.S. consumer can’t seem to stop spending. Overall retail sales ticked up 0.7% in September, outpacing predictions, and marking six straight months of growth.

Clothing and accessories stores were down month-over-month, but up 0.8% against a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation. However, Blacks’ clients showed an overall increase of 2% in September.

Strong job growth and high interest rates still indicate an economy that is running a little hot, and inflation remains a concern for consumers, particularly in the middle and lower ends of the market.

But, given that shoppers keep on spending, we are sticking to our outlook for a strong holiday season.

September Trends

Menswear pulled off another minor miracle last month, showing a 6% gain overall, compared to a 4% drop in women’s wear. Once again, Clothing categories led the way with an 8% uptick.

Sport Coats continued to dominate — they have been doing well since spring.

But the category driving the momentum recently is Outerwear, which vendors shipped on time for the first time in years. This inflated our stores’ inventory levels early in the season against last year, having a strong effect on business.

In our women’s stores, it’s clear that those with better and luxury goods are seeing the gains, whereas the more moderately priced departments and stores are either flat or down compared to last year.

Women’s Blazers and Trousers continue to drive business, but they’re still not making up for the decreases we are seeing in Dresses. Hopefully, Resort deliveries of evening and cocktail dresses will prop up that business again.

Stick The Landing

The good news is that vendors have returned to shipping early, giving us a longer selling window.

Now is the time to cancel any past due orders, or ask for discounts on the product. It’s getting too late in the season to be landing seasonal goods.

Blacks’ Bottom Line

With Halloween already here, it’s go time. Promote your holiday events, highlight your unique products, and keep it cheery no matter what’s going on in the wider world.