Skip to navigationSkip to content
Women walk past a fashion outlet offering a sale at a shopping mall in Beijing.
AP Photo/Andy Wong
Get ready for some good deals.

It’s not just department stores: US retail sales are slowing in general

Nordstrom earnings last night were bad. Very bad. When flummoxed analysts asked what happened, co-president Blake Nordstrom had trouble explaining it himself.

“We’re not economists, we’re merchants,” he said on the company’s earnings call. “And we concur with you that if you get to a higher altitude and you look at the scorecard, there are a number of economic indicators that look real positive for the US and the consumer and spending, yet all we can tell you is in our business, we saw a slowdown.”

Well, it turns out they’re not alone, as actual economists are noting. As consumer-facing companies from Walmart (pdf) to Advance Auto Parts start prepping analysts for rougher-than-expected fiscal years, the Census Department reports that US retail sales growth is grinding lower (pdf) almost everywhere.

They were up 1.7% in October from the same time last year, and only grew 0.5% if you cut out auto sales.

A portion of that (in a pretty volatile data point) is less money spent at the gas station, as fuel prices are still super-low. But that doesn’t explain everything, as gas station sales declined a little bit less. Healthcare, building materials, and non-store retailers (e-commerce and the like) excluded, everything else is slowing down.

“This is clearly a mixed report. Headline soft, revisions better.” wrote Bank of Montreal’s economics team in a note to clients. ”It doesn’t help retailers get into festive mood, however.”

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.