Retailer shares fall following weak sales reports, as shoppers shift spending to larger items including cars, homes

Kendall Sinclair

Kendall Sinclair

Oct 11, 2013 – Associated Press

NEW YORK , October 11, 2013 () – Consumers move away from the mall toward big purchases, sending retailer shares down

The shares of a number of retailers sank Friday after monthly sales reports showed that shoppers are still keeping a lid on spending for clothes, shoes and other smaller items.

Consumers have recently started shifting their spending from items they might find at the mall to bigger purchases, such as cars, homes and home updates. Some say this drop in spending has been compounded by new worries about the partial government shutdown.

Sales at stores opened at least a year — a measure of a retailer's health — rose 2.0 percent in September, according to a tally of 10 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers released this week. That was a slower pace than the 3.5 percent increase posted in August.

The results increase concerns about how shoppers will spend for the crucial holiday season, the year's most important period for retailers.

"A weak back-to-school season, lack of compelling fashion and the ongoing government shutdown points to troubling times," a group of KeyBanc analysts wrote in a research note Friday. "We continue to believe that the consumer remains focused on non-apparel, big ticket purchases, which has led to challenging traffic trend and a weak retail environment."

They also noted that an unseasonably warm fall encouraged consumers to delay purchasing cooler weather items.

The trends have taken a toll on a number of major retailers.

Gap Inc., for example, said late Thursday that sales at its stores open at least a year fell 3 percent last month. That compares with a 6 percent increase in the year-ago period. The performance was below the 1.6 percent gain that Thomson Reuters analysts forecast.

The measure is considered a key indicator of a retailer's financial health because it excludes results from recently opened or closed stores, thus tracking growth at ongoing locations.

Shares of Gap, whose brands include Old Navy, Banana Republic and its namesake chain, fell more than 7 percent to $36.68 by midday.

Here's a look at how some other retailers fared by midday amid a broader market uptick:

— Abercrombie & Fitch Co. shares slipped 2 cents to $34.12.

— American Eagle Outfitters Inc. lost 26 cents, or 2 percent, to $13.29.

— Target Corp. dropped 42 cents to $63.01

— Wal-Mart Stores Inc. gave up 36 cents to $74.43

— Kohl's Corp. shares slid 52 cents to $51.32.

— Macy's Inc. shares fell 59 cents to $42.62

— L Brands Inc. dropped 93 cents to $55.67.

— J.C. Penney Co. Inc. was flat at $7.97.

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