Retail sales may have seen a lift last week, but the back-to-school season threatens to end the summer with a thud. For the week ended July 18 sales rose .5%, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs. "Although this week's sales uptick was modest, its breadth was widespread, with a strong spurt of customer traffic across most segments of the industry," Michael P Niemire, ICSC chief economist said in a statement. But this good news was dampened by yet another back-to-school survey noting that consumers are cutting back on purchases. Only 33% of parents are expected to spend more than $400 this year, compared with 47% last year, according to a survey conducted America's Research Group and UBS. This follows a report released by Deloitte yesterday, which revealed that 64% of shoppers plan to spend less on back-to-school items. The National Retail Federation said last week that the average family with students in grades kindergarten through 12 is expected to spend $548.72 on school merchandise, down 7.7% from last year. NRF predicts total back-to-school spending will reach $17.42 billion. Retail shares were awash in red Tuesday morning, as the S&P Retail Index fell 1.4% to 337.63. Teen specialty retailers felt some pangs, with Aeropostale ( ARO) down 2% to $37.54, Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF) sliding 1% to $25.82 American Eagle Outfitters ( AEO) sinking 3% to $14.18 and Buckle ( BKE) descending 4% to $31.03.
Department stores also gave up yesterday's gains. Macy's ( M) declined 2% to $12.49, Kohl's ( KSS) dropped 2% to $47.51 and JC Penney ( JCP) slipped 2.5% to $29.22 Office supply retailers, which are expected to lag in the all important back-to-school season, were also awash in red. Staples ( SPLS) was down 1% to $20.80, OfficeMax ( OMX) fell 2% to $6.91 and Office Depot ( ODP) sank 3% to $4.55.