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September 30, 2020 | Death of the Department Stores and the Alleged Retail Recovery

Mike 'Mish' Shedlock

Mike Shedlock / Mish is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction.
Department stores have been in a death spiral for years. Covid accelerated the trend.
I went back over the advance retail sales starts for a closer look at what’s happening.Advance Retail Sales 1992-Present

Advance Retail Sales 2020-08C

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.

Misleading Chart

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

Advance Retail Sales Select Categories 2020-08 Detail.

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 seeĀ What Major Stores Went Bankrupt in 2020?


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September 30th, 2020

Posted In: Mish Talk

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