Retail May Be Getting Better, But Mall Traffic Is Still Problematic

After a rough patch, sales for apparel and footwear are starting to head in the right direction.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, which on Wednesday released an early report of retail sales for the month of November, clothing and accessories sales increased 1.9 percent year-over-year in November. Those results are also an improvement over October, when sales in the category dipped 1.1 percent.

While the results were generally a positive for retail, Cowen & Co. analyst John Kernan pointed out Wednesday that nonstore retail sales increased 15.3 percent year-over-year, to 30.1 percent of total sales, up from 27.7 percent last year. (Total sales exclude autos, gas stations, food and grocery.)

This is the first time since Jan-2014 that non-store retail sales have accounted for 30 percent of total sales (excluding autos, gas stations, food and grocery) and we expect it to continue to accelerate as consumers shift buying preferences to e-commerce,” Kernan wrote.

Kernan further posited that ongoing weakness in mall traffic could be a headwind to overall retail sales growth.

According to national traffic devices, mall traffic declined 6.4 percent [year-over-year] in November, tied with May for the worst decline in 2016,” Kernan wrote, noting that December month-to-date traffic is already down a significant 9.9 percent. “We acknowledge that warmer-than-average temperatures have likely impacted the declines, but this could prove to be a headwind to December retail sales.”

For the month of November, total unadjusted retail sales — excluding auto and gas — grew 0.2 percent month-over-month, while unadjusted sales climbed 5.1 percent year-over-year.

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