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People Are Shopping for Shoes and Clothing Again — Could New Stimulus Boost That?

After months of uncertainty that led them to hold back on discretionary spending, Americans appear to be shopping for shoes and clothing again — and a third round of stimulus checks could deliver another boost to spending in the months ahead.

According to new data from Coresight Research, consumer spending on footwear and apparel saw year-over-year growth of 0.8% in the first month of this year, compared with “deep declines” of 9.1% in December 2020 and 5.9% in November 2020. It marked the first month of year-over-year gains since February of last year — just before the coronavirus outbreak struck the United States.

Coresight Research
CREDIT: Courtesy of Coresight Research

For shoes, specifically, spending rose by 3.8% in January, versus drops of 6.4% in December and 5% in November.

Clothing, on the other hand, saw a “relatively mild” year-over-year decrease of 0.3% in January, compared with its respective declines of 10.2% and 6.5% in December and November. Tracking subcategories, the research and advisory firm reported a 1% dip in women’s and girls’ apparel, offset by a 2.7% jump in children’s and infants’ clothing and a 0.4% increase in men’s and boys’ apparel.

Coresight attributed the spending rebound in early 2021 to the government’s second COVID-19 relief bill, which was enacted in late December. As part of the measure, eligible individuals received $600 stimulus checks, and couples with joint tax filings took home $1,200, plus another $600 per qualifying child.

Looking ahead, another round of fiscal stimulus could give a much-needed lift to a range of retailers. Tomorrow, President Joe Biden is expected to sign his American Rescue Plan into law, which would provide eligible individuals an even bigger $1,400 direct payment, as well as an extension to the $300 in weekly jobless aid.

According to some experts, those checks — coupled with more-widespread distribution of COVID-19 vaccines — could send shoppers back into stores to purchase apparel and footwear, as well as furniture, electronics and hobby equipment.

Last month, data from the Commerce Department showed that consumers returned to department stores, whose sales in January shot up 23.5% month-over-month. Sporting goods stores also saw an 8% improvement, and clothing and accessories stores posted a 5% gain. Overall, the agency reported that U.S. shoppers boosted spending by 5.3%, to $568.2 billion, in the first month of the year.

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