Death of the Department Stores and the Alleged Retail Recovery
I went back over the advance retail sales starts for a closer look at what's happening.
Advance Retail Sales 1992-Present
The above baseline chart shows sales have recovered above pre-Covid levels for the third month.
For June, July, and August, sales topped $206 billion vs $203 billion in February, seasonally-adjusted in 1982-1984 dollars.
The above chart is misleading because it does not show winners and losers, nor does it show year-to-date comparison.
Year-to-Date Total Sales Not Seasonally or Price Adjusted
- 2019: $510.6 Billion
- 2020: $403.9 Billion
Retail sales have not really recovered but there are winners and losers.
Advance Retail Sales in 2020
The recovery is more than a bit uneven.
- Motor vehicles and parts, have recovered.
- Nonstore retailers (Amazon) never slowed in the first place.
- Food and beverage store sales shot up but have given back some gains.
- I doubt the rebound in food and drinking places is as good as it looks.
- General merchandise sales generally flatlined thanks to stores like Wal-Mart that stayed open because they offered food.
- The Gas rebound is anemic because people are still working from home.
- Department stores remain in deep trouble.
Department stores have been dying a slow death for decades. Does anyone care?
For further discussion, please see What Major Stores Went Bankrupt in 2020?