Presidential Election Brings New Sales Challenge For Retailers

Presidential Candidates
Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump.
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While the scary economic rhetoric might win candidates big votes on the presidential primary trail, it’s not doing much to help retailers and brands meet sales goals.

The 2016 presidential campaign has shaped up to be one of the most unpredictable in memory, with candidates openly sparring and plenty of mudslinging so far.

Market experts and executives alike say the election cycles always prove to be a consumer mood-dampener. While much of the contraction in spending happens closer to the election, already brands are starting to see the effects of the negative campaigns on shoppers.

“The air of uncertainty and unpredictability that this election is projecting on everything else … is never good for business,” said Steve Lamar, EVP of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. “Folks are going to be looking to see that the system begins to shake itself out and stabilize a bit going forward.”

It’s hard to quantify exactly how much consumers are holding onto their paychecks, but coming off a soft 2015, it’s definitely an anxiety point for analysts.

“The election is a distraction for the consumer, and it creates uncertainty in the consumer psyche, which is not especially favorable for consumer confidence, and perhaps that is part of the recent down-tick in consumer confidence we have seen,” said analyst Jeff Van Sinderen at B. Riley and Co. “Overall, I think the election has some degree of general impact on sales, but I think it is a secondary factor within the whole scheme of all things that influence consumer behavior and expenditures.”

While the election isn’t the only factor playing into sales, it’s one that experienced insiders have anticipated. At RG Barry in Ohio, CEO and president Greg Tunney said that his firm planned early for the downturn.

“I’m always careful in an election year when we do budgets to be very conservative right up until the first week of November,” said Tunney. “Election years always have a negative effect on retail performance with the consumer because consumers sit on the fence until they figure out which way the ball is moving.”