Retail Roundup: Post-Labor Day Traffic Trends

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Labor Day's later arrival this year dragged down first-week sales in September but boosted second-week sales.
Getty Images.

Retail traffic has been less than stellar in recent months, and the latest data suggest that the up-and-down trends in both sales and traffic may continue.

Total U.S. retail visits were up 2.5 percent year-on-year in the second week of September — a solid improvement over the previous week’s decline of 4.3 percent, according to a report by Cowen & Co.’s retail team.

While the uptick offers some encouragement for footwear and apparel companies, the Cowen report attributed the acceleration to the Labor Day shift and cautioned that the third week of September is forecast to be the warmest in five years, which does not bode well for fall apparel sales.

Conversely, retailers that have opted to keep some of their summer goods on shelves through September may benefit from the warmer temperatures, the report said.

Citi Research analyst Kate McShane also highlighted improved retail traffic during the past week, noting that U.S. retail same-store traffic climbed 6.99 percent year-on-year, compared with the prior year’s increase of 0.27 percent.

Like Kernan, McShane acknowledged that much of the U.S. — the South, North Central and Northeast, specifically — will see warmer temperatures in week three. However, McShane added that a cold front in the Southeast and colder, wetter weather in the Northwest and West Coast could offer a boost to fall footwear and apparel purchasing in those regions.

Still, both Cowen’s research team and McShane predict that retail traffic will be down in September’s third week.

McShane believes there will be a decline of 1 percent to 3 percent, while Cowen forecasts a decrease of 2 percent to 4 percent.