September Retail Sales Show Momentum in Fashion

Consumers continued to adjust to pandemic life last month and ramped their spending back up — bringing some much-needed momentum to fashion retailers.

Apparel and accessories specialty stores saw sales shoot up a seasonally adjusted 11 percent versus August, a big acceleration since sales between July and August inched up just 1.4 percent. Still, sales in the category were down 12.5 percent last month versus a year earlier. 

September department stores gained 9.7 percent from August, when sales fell 2.2 percent, but were still down 7.3 percent last month compared with September 2019. 

That doesn’t tell the full picture of fashion sales, since apparel and footwear purchases made online — through retailer’s own sites and Amazon — are registered in the nonstore retailers category, which was up 0.5 percent from August. That also showed a spending increase from the 0.2 percent seen between July and August. The category was 23.8 percent from a year earlier last month. 

Overall September retail and food service sales rose a seasonally adjusted 1.9 percent from August — more than twice the 0.8 percent rise economists were looking for — and were up 5.4 percent from a year ago.

And that’s not the only sign of life. 

Fashion’s power players have shown signs of bouncing back some after a quarter of steep losses during the worst COVID-19 shutdown. Both Levi Strauss & Co. and VF Corp. returned to profitability last quarter. 

VF went as far as to make a projection for its fiscal year — something companies have shied away from since the pandemic started. The parent to Vans and The North Face is looking for sales of at least $9 billion this fiscal year, a drop of 14 percent from the prior year.

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