Friday, June 14, 2013

The Case of the Shrinking Sales Index

In Will Monthly Sales Reporting Be Missed? on, March 12, 2013, Tom Ryan notes: “With the new retail calendar year, a slew of retailers - including Target, Macy's, Kohl's and Nordstrom - have joined others in moving to stop reporting monthly sales. Also bowing out of the practice are Stage Stores and Bon-Ton. TJX Cos., the parent of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, will stop reporting beginning in April. J.C. Penney, Dillard's  and Saks stopped reporting last year. In the 90s, over 100 retailers reported sales on a monthly basis with the number dropping to around 75 by the early part of the last decade. Liquidations and mergers accounted for some of the exits but many of the majors, including Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears, Dollar General, CVS, Best Buy, Toys "R" Us, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, moved away from the practice. Wal-Mart discontinued reporting monthly sales in May 2009”.

As regular KeyPoints readers are aware, every month for quite some time we have begun the Industry News: National section with an overview of monthly same-store retail sales performance, which we generally introduce with a sentence about the International Council of Shopping Centers monthly index of major retailers. That index, and what it measures, has changed dramatically.

Our issue of March 2006 began with this statement: “February same store sales for the ICSC’s index of 65 major retailers rose 3.2%”. As recently as last year, in the June 2012 issue, we noted: “US chain store comp retail sales for May rose by 3.6% year-over-year as measured by the ICSC's tally of 22 major retail chains”. The current month’s ICSC tally, reflecting sales performance for May 2013,consists of just 13 retailers.

Our list of retailers’ monthly sales results
from December 2000. 
Note how many are no

longer in business.
In this publication, we’ve always included a more detailed list of comp-store sales results for retailers in a variety of categories. When I started working on this publication, in 2001, that list took almost two full pages (of the printed version), and consisted of 73 active major retailers, all of whom reported monthly comp-store sales results as a matter of course. At left, you can see copy of the list from January of 2001, reporting sales results for December 2000.

We’ve pared down and modified that list over the years; our
Retailers on our list still

reporting monthly
current list (which you can see further down on this page) reports sales for a group of 40 major retailers in key categories which are active in our home region of New England. As of this writing, as you can see from the table, only 5 of those now report monthly. The others report quarterly, and are on varying fiscal reporting schedules. Because of this sizeable shift, a monthly retail comp-store sales index can no longer be considered a reliable indicator of the retail industry, and this is reflected in a variety of indexes and lists throughout the industry.

All of this said, we’ll continue to quote the ICSC index as a point of interest, and we’ll continue to quote the Commerce Department’s monthly sales index – arguably a more accurate indicator of the retail environment - at the top of Page 4.  We’ll continue to publish our retailer list, including the latest figures available at the time of publication. And we’ll keep a critical eye on changing trends in retail sales reporting.

Chris Cardoni, Marketing Manager

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