NEW YORK (
) -- Remember how back-to-school time used to be such a bummer, rife with disappointment and a sense of lost opportunity? Well, the sorrow may not just be for kids, anymore.
Indeed, the crucial back-to-school season -- typically second in importance for the retail sector only to Christmas -- often provides a vital lift for the second half of the year. But the signs this year point to a season that might garner a failing grade.
We begin with consumer confidence -- or the lack thereof -- which in July
hit its lowest level since April
. Likewise, several shopper surveys indicate that not only will consumers spend less overall than last year, but apparel in particular, will experience substantial decreases.
|Retailers prepare for failing marks this back-to-school season.
Families with students in grades kindergarten through 12 are expected to dole out $548.72 on school merchandise, down 7.7% from last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
And these numbers look even worse when it comes to apparel, as NRF predicts a 12.7% slump In the category, the biggest decrease in five years.
Even when consumers are bombarded with bargains -- once a sure-fire way to get them to spend -- they just aren't budging. "According to our research, 70% are spending between 10% and 30% less, even when presented with good deals," UBS analyst Roxanne Meyer said.
As a result, specialty retailers are poised to get hit the hardest.
Abercrombie & Fitch
Pacific Sunwear of California
, both of which have been reporting double-digit declines in monthly same-store sales, are not expected to recover in the near-term.
"Abercrombie & Fitch has done a good job recently of injecting fashion into its stores," Needham & Co. analyst Christine Chen said. "But it will take about another quarter or so to see any sort of improvement,"