Weakness In Retail Traffic Leaks Into Late August

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The few weeks of improved retail traffic during July were short lived as August registered its third straight week of lackluster trends.

Total U.S. retail visits were down 7 percent year-over-year during the third week of August, worse than the previous year’s decline of 1.8 percent, according to Cowen and Co. analyst John Kernan.

By category, traffic in the electronics space continued to outperform apparel and accessories, slipping just 0.4 percent compared with a dip of 5 percent for apparel and accessories during the week.

“Warmer temperatures in the Northeast and ongoing flooding in parts of the South likely impacted back-to-school traffic,” Kernan wrote Monday.

Total U.S. retail same-store traffic was down 5.5 percent year-over-year for the week compared with a 2.5 percent dip in the previous year, Citi Research analyst Kate McShane noted. Year to date, total U.S. retail visits are down 4 percent.

Analysts expect sluggish traffic to continue into the fourth week of the month, with McShane predicting a decline in range of 3 percent to 5 percent, and Kernan forecasting a decrease in the 4 percent to 6 percent range.

“[The fourth week of August] should see cooler temperatures in the West and most of the South, which should benefit back-to-school shopping,” Kernan wrote.

Meanwhile, meteorologists are watching several storms, including one that AccuWeather Inc. warns could become a hurricane, wreaking havoc on Florida this weekend.

(Citi Research analyst Kate McShane references data from ShopperTrak.)