Horrific Retail Sales; More Bankruptcies?

From the New York Times; hat tip to (and opening comment by) Yves Smith (which is significant: she doesn’t shock easily):

Friday, November 7, 2008
“Retailers Report a Sales Collapse”

The unusually dramatic headline comes from the New York Times. Note this drop was a not a surprise to some analysts such as Gary Shilling, who predicted a marked fall in retail sales, which when you allow for the fact that gas and food are not terribly discretionary, implies much greater declines in apparel and other categories.

The story also reports that deep discounting is not enticing many consumers to buy. And why should it? Broke is broke.

From the New York Times:

Sales at the nation’s largest retailers fell off a cliff in October, casting fresh doubt on the survival of some chains and signaling that this will probably be the weakest Christmas shopping season in decades.

The remarkable slowdown hit luxury chains that sell $5,000 designer dresses as badly as stores that offer $18 packs of underwear, suggesting that consumers at all income levels are snapping their wallets shut.

Sales at Neiman Marcus, the luxury department store, dropped nearly 28 percent in October compared with the same month last year. Sales fell 20 percent at Abercrombie & Fitch, nearly 17 percent at Saks, 16 percent at Gap and nearly that much at Nordstrom.

Of the more than two dozen major retailers that reported on Thursday, most had sales declines at stores open at least a year, the majority of the decreases in double digits. Deep discounters like Wal-Mart and BJ’s Wholesale Club reported gains…

“October was every bit as bad we feared,” said John D. Morris, a retailing analyst with Wachovia. “Maybe worse. October’s numbers were so disappointing, particularly in the final week, which had to leave retailers in a state of high anxiety going into the holiday season.”

Indeed, the situation for retailers is so dire that it is creating opportunity for any consumers in a mood to spend money. Seven weeks before Christmas, stores are offering eye-catching bargains as they struggle to move merchandise.

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