Heavy rain, economic worries swamp June retail sales

A perfect storm of heavy rains, cool weather and a dreary jobs report dampened retail sales this June. The National Retail Federation reported that retail industry sales for June (which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) decreased 3.8 percent compared to last year and decreased 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month.
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A perfect storm of heavy rains, cool weather and a dreary jobs report dampened retail sales this June.

The National Retail Federation reported that retail industry sales for June (which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) decreased 3.8 percent compared to last year and decreased 0.2 percent seasonally adjusted month-to-month.

The June gloom began early in the month when the Labor Department reported that 467,000 jobs were lost in May and unemployment rose to 9.5 percent, the highest it has been since August 1983. If the bad economic news made consumers wary of spending, the soggy, cool weather in parts of the country did nothing to inspire them to purchase summer-related items.

According to a July 9 Reuters report, “Escalating job worries and rainy weather dampened shoppers’ appetite for buying summer staples like shorts and dresses, resulting in sharper-than-expected sales declines for many merchants in June and increasing concerns about the back-to-school shopping season.”

The report also stated that many areas of the country, from the West Coast to the Northeast, got two or three times their normal June precipitation, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center.

Planalytics Business Weather Intelligence (www.planalytics.com) reported that in June, New York City had rain 21 days, eclipsing the all-time record for rainfall days for the month. (The record had been 17 days, set in 1972.) Also in June, Portland, Maine, had 24 days of rain and Charleston, W.V., 23 days. Other waterlogged towns:

>> Hartford, Conn. (19 days)

>> Salt Lake City (16 days)

>> Boston (15 days)

>> Chicago (15 days)

>> Philadelphia (14 days)

While rain posed problems for retailers in early summer, so did cooler-than-normal temperatures. According to Planalytics, the Northeast had its coldest June in 27 years, the Midwest had its coldest June in six years and temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic region averaged 4.5 degrees cooler than June 2008, decreasing the demand for shorts, T-shirts and swimwear.

“When the weather is like this, the inclination to (shop) is absolutely not there,” Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail, told Reuters. “It feels like we are going to go straight from spring to autumn or we'll just wait for the big sales and buy then.”

--Marcus Woolf

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