by Steve Pruitt

Q: It looks like overall retail sales improved in September. What should we expect in our specialty stores going forward?

Steve Pruitt: Our stores also saw gains in September, compared to August. That said, specialty store sales are still down by double digits compared to last year.

The good news is that 45 percent of our clients beat their September plans. That represents a 50 percent gain over August. And so far in October, we are continuing to see a slow improvement.

Inventories are generally in-line with expectations, and margins are also improving as new fall merchandise sells through. But, in many stores, slow delivery of new merchandise is throttling sales at this point.

As for Holiday sales, we still expect to see double-digit decreases, although it won’t be like the last 90 days – expect smaller dips.

The best business we’re seeing right now is in Southern locations, and in resort areas across the country. This is due to second-home owners who have opted to stay in their (usually more remote) second homes. The most challenging locations are still in cities where office buildings are generally empty.

Overall, Holiday will offer us some relief. Put your energy into making sure you have the inventory you need, on time.

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  1. Steve,
    You talk about “percentage” of sales gains, and I an sure you have a financial track what’s happening with specialty stores.
    From what you know, do you have any indication of what percentage of specialty stores are breaking even and what percentage are meeting their rent payments?
    To follow up, can you indicate how – say the North East is doing compared to the rest of the country? I know any answer is controversial, but is there any further information you could share with us?

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