Economy Watch: Major Chain Stores See Sales Uptick, Unless They’re Selling to Teens

On Thursday, Thomson Reuters' survey of 28 major U.S. chain stores found that they posted a 2.5 percent year-over-year increase in same-store sales in May.

June 4, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user Diego_3336

On Thursday, Thomson Reuters’ survey of 28 major U.S. chain stores found that they posted a 2.5 percent year-over-year increase in same-store sales in May. A gain is better than a loss, but that figure was nevertheless disappointing in the wake of 4 percent year-over-year gains in February and 9.1 percent in March (then again, those were two 2009 months were among the worst for retail sales in recent history).

Unsurprisingly, discounters maintained their strength in May, turning in a 5.3 percent gain compared with the same month last year. TJX Cos., whose brands include T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, for instance, reported a 4 percent same-store sales increase in May.

Retailers catering to teenagers, always a tough market, had a hard month. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and its rival American Eagle Outfitters Inc. both saw declines in same-store sales of 3 percent, but that wasn’t as drastic as California-based Wet Seal, which experienced a 9 percent drop in same-store sales during May.

Bankruptcies Still Increasing

The U.S. economy might be improving, but that overall abstraction isn’t much comfort yet to many household economies. According to Automated Access to Court Electronic Records (AACER) on Thursday, more than 133,450 U.S. bankruptcy petitions were filed in May, 10 percent more than during the same month in 2009.

The May total was down 9 percent from April’s 146,209, but AACER chalked that up to the fact that there were just 20 business days in May compared with 22 in April. Average filings per day edged up to 6,673 in May from 6,646 the month before.

Through the end of May, there have been a bit more than 659,500 bankruptcy filings this year, up 15 percent from a same period last year, according to AACER. About 16 percent of filings this year have been in California, while another 7 percent were in Florida and 6 percent were in Michigan. On a per-capita basis, Nevada had the most filings, followed by Georgia and Tennessee.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

The official job numbers weren’t ready on Thursday, but that didn’t keep unofficial numbers from being published. Non-farm private employment increased 55,000 from April to May on a seasonally adjusted basis according to the ADP National Employment Report. The estimated change in employment from March to April was also revised upward, from an increase of 32,000 to an increase of 65,000.

The Monster Employment Index rose by 1 point in May as a number of industries continued to step-up their online recruitment efforts. The annual growth rate during May was 16 points, the highest year-over-year growth rate since April 2007, indicating the demand for labor is strengthening.

Wall Street spent Thursday anticipating official employment numbers, and in the end didn’t move too far one way or the other. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 5.74 points, or a scant 0.06 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained 0.41 percent and 0.96 percent, respectively.