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Are Americans Still Shopping?

Earnings from a host of mall brands will offer a clear picture of the strength of US retail sales. That, plus what else to watch for this week.
American shoppers have continued to spend, if not quite at the levels seen at the peak of the post-pandemic boom.
American shoppers have continued to spend, if not quite at the levels seen at the peak of the post-pandemic boom. (Getty Images)
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It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the fashion industry, but last year could have gone worse. Most retailers were forced to ramp up discounting to get rid of extra inventory, which put pressure on margins (and contributed to the trickle of layoff announcements in recent months). Sales did slow from their post-pandemic surge and even declined at some brands. But consumer spending didn’t nosedive either, giving hope to retailers that if they could clear out their stockrooms and warehouses, their customers would keep shopping with them at full price. Retail sales data for January, released by the US government earlier this month, supported this idea, showing the biggest monthly spending jump in nearly two years.

That optimism will be tested this week. Starting Tuesday, more than a dozen major American fashion retailers will report financial results. The numbers they report will mostly cover the last three months of 2022, including the all-important holiday shopping season. Equally crucial are the outlooks for the coming year’s sales and profits that usually accompany annual results. These will speak to how confident executives at these businesses are that the economic downturn will be short and shallow. Gloomy outlooks from Walmart and Home Depot last week sent a chill through the entire retail sector.

That’s not to say the retailers reporting this week should be treated as a uniform bloc. Kohl’s spent much of last year fighting with activist investors and potential buyers; it has a new chief executive but the same old challenges. Now it’s Nordstrom’s turn to consider (or not) ideas from outsiders, as the investor Ryan Cohen recently disclosed a stake in the department-store chain. American Eagle and Abercrombie have strengthened their connections with their young customers during the pandemic. Will they keep shopping in a recession? How is Victoria’s Secret’s new image playing with consumers?

Don’t expect a clear answer one way or the other on most of these questions. Rather, fashion executives are likely to echo Walmart CFO John David Rainey, who told CNBC last week that “we find ourselves in a similar situation to one that we’ve been in for the last several years where there’s a lot of unknowns.”

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What Else to Watch for This Week

Sunday

Milan Fashion Week: Giorgio Armani, Tomo Koizumi

Monday

Paris Fashion Week: Vaquera

Tuesday

Paris Fashion Week: Dior, Saint Laurent

Kontoor, Urban Outfitters, Ross, Olaplex, Interparfums, Figs, Warby Parker, The RealReal, Moncler report results

Wednesday

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Paris Fashion Week: The Row, Dries Van Noten, Acne, Balmain, Cecilie Bahnsen

Abercrombie & Fitch, Kohl’s, American Eagle report results

Thursday

Paris Fashion Week: Chloé, Givenchy, Rick Owens, Schiaparelli, Isabel Marant

Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, Nordstrom, Ferragamo report results

EU unemployment for January, EU inflation for February

Friday

Paris Fashion Week: Loewe, Issey Miyake, Giambattista Valli, Nina Ricci, Victoria Beckham, Yohji Yamamoto

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Saturday

Paris Fashion Week: Junya Watanabe, Vivenne Westwood, Hermès, Comme des Garçons, Alexander McQueen, Ann Demeulemeester

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