If you had clothing stores on your bingo card, congratulations. It turns out that bars and restaurants haven’t been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic – it’s clothing stores that have suffered the biggest revenue losses in the past three months, with squeezed sales 66.6%.
In contrast, restaurant and bar sales fell “only” by 40%. Many of them survived on takeout or delivery, but how many clothing stores were doing curbside pickup? And who needs to buy new clothes if you hang around in your yoga pants all day and night?
If you need something, it’s much easier to order online or go to the big box store that’s been open from the start.
The places where customers linger will have the most difficulty recovering fully. Restaurants and bars, of course, but also destinations such as clothing stores, bookstores, housewares and antique stores. It’s hard to follow social distancing guidelines when you linger in piles and not paying attention to what other customers are doing.
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The Census Bureau estimated On Tuesday, retail sales rose a record 17.7% in May from dismal April figures, as many stores reopened and consumers ventured out of their homes again. But even with this dramatic increase, total retail sales in May were down 6.1% from a year earlier.
Retail sales figures do not cover hard-hit services like arts, sports, recreation, travel, accommodation, hair salons or healthcare.
To assess the total impact of the pandemic’s interim closures and reopenings, I compared total retail sales over the three-month period from March (when stores started to close) to May with sales from the same period last year. Total retail sales declined 10.5%, with wide variations by type of store.
As you might expect, online stores and grocery stores actually increased their sales from the previous year. Hardware stores and garden centers have also gotten a boost, perhaps because people think if they have to stay home, they might as well make it fun. General merchandise stores, such as Walmart WMT,
and Costco COT,
also increased sales slightly.
Clothing stores aside, the largest declines were seen at gas stations, furniture stores, electronics and appliance stores, and car dealerships. Gas stations, of course, have taken a double hit, with lower volumes and prices.
With so many people out of work, it makes sense that sales of durable goods like cars, washing machines and sofas won’t be strong until more people return to work. Much will also depend on whether Washington gives more financial support to the unemployed and underemployed.
And to purchase certain types of goods, consumers may never return to physical stores.