Retail sales plummet in wake of attacks

Biggest drop in almost 10 years

Don Hogsett, October 22, 2001

With Americans stunned by terrorist attacks, then made even more anxious by record number of layoffs, retail sales took their biggest dive in almost a decade, tumbling by 2.1 percent in September, the Commerce Department reported, sliding to $260.7 billion from $266.2 billion in August.

Weighed down even further by a big slump in auto sales, total retail sales were off even further, dropping by 2.4 percent, to $286.5 billion from $293.4 billion, a one-month decline of $6.9 billion.

The big drop in consumer spending, to its lowest level since December 2000, was led by big-ticket ticket and discretionary items, like car sales, clothing and eating out, all of which posted steep declines.

Excluding the big-ticket automobile category, sales fell by 1.4 percent, sharply weakening after a 0.4 percent rebound during August.

The only gainers in the otherwise bleak environment were retailers of basic necessities — gas stations, food and beverage stores and health and personal-care stores.

Especially jittery about their incomes in an environment of mounting layoffs, consumers were scaling back on what they perceive to be non-essentials or deferrable purchases. The already battered clothing category took another big hit, down by 5.9 percent, and restaurants and bars dropped off by 5.1 percent.

Sales in department stores, discounters and chains declined by 1.6 percent during September, with gains in the nation's big discounters offsetting a deep slide in traditional department stores.

Retail sales in September

Plenty of pain to go around…
Clothing stores -5.9%
Restaurants & bars -5.1
Auto sales -4.6
Building supplies -2.2
Electronics & appliances -1.7
Dept. stores, chains & discounters -1.6
Furniture & home stores -1.5
General merchandise -0.4
Without many winners
Gas stations +3.0%
Grocery stores +0.5

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See the May 2017 issue of Home & Textiles Today. In this issue, we discuss our annual Market Basket survey, which finds higher prices and more polyester at leading retailers. See details!