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Retail’s Two-Track Approach to the Holiday Shopping Season

The end of back-to-school season puts the focus on all-important holiday sales. Mixed signals on consumer spending make forecasters’ jobs even more complicated than usual. That, plus what else to watch for in the coming week.
A strong economy is boosting the fortunes of some, but not all, retailers.
A strong economy is boosting the fortunes of some, but not all, retailers. (Getty Images)

Kids are headed back to school in parts of the US, and from the look of the recently wrapped retail earnings season, they are exceptionally well-outfitted. Brands ranging from Abercrombie & Fitch to Urban Outfitters said the back-to-school campaign was a success, and even retailers that fell short on sales forecasts, including Macy’s and Target, cited the midsummer shopping season as a bright spot.

Next weekend’s Labour Day sales offer one last chance to lure procrastinating parents to stores. Then it’s time to start thinking about the all-important winter holiday shopping season. Retailers don’t want a repeat of last year, when they ordered too much merchandise they were forced to discount come January; those markdowns are still dogging some companies nearly two-thirds of the way into 2023. On the other hand, they also don’t want a repeat of 2021′s empty shelves, either.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach this year. The US economy looks headed for a soft landing, policymakers made clear at their annual Jackson Hole, Wyoming meeting last week (we’ll get an important data point on that front with August unemployment data Friday). That points to another season of robust consumer spending without the need to offer deep markdowns; it’s certainly what brands on the upswing are counting on.

There are warning signs, though, including disappointing sales at already struggling retailers like Gap Inc., Macy’s and Foot Locker. It’s possible consumers, already picky about where they shop due to inflation, get even pickier. For now, though, retail’s two-track economy looks to remain locked in place.

What Else to Watch for This Week

Monday

US Open begins: Courtside at Grand Slam tennis tournaments is the new tunnel walk, thanks to young stars like Gucci-toting Jannik Sinner.

UK Bank Holiday

Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo begins

Tuesday

PVH, Brunello Cucinelli report results

Geneva Watch Days begins

Wednesday

Venice Film Festival opens: The red carpet will be a tightrope walk for the industry’s striking actors

Victoria’s Secret reports results: Next month, the brand brings back its televised lingerie show

Thursday

Luluemon reports results

A Bathing Ape 30th Anniversary show in Tokyo

Eurozone releases inflation data for August

Friday

US August unemployment data released

The Week Ahead wants to hear from you! Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.

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