Halloween Does Not Spook or Excite Retail Sales in October

Halloween was forecast to be robust for retailers, but October sales did not go beyond okay, according to Jeff Van Sinderen, a retail analyst for B.Riley FBR.

“We believe that traffic was generally on the soft side at bricks-and-mortar in October,” Van Sinderen said. “There were some positive comps, albeit not all were especially robust.”

But soft October sales were nothing to be anxious over. “Retail has pretty much been in the typical seasonal doldrums in recent weeks, before the holiday kicks in,” he said.

Van Sinderen forecast that retail sales would start increasing as Black Friday approaches, the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

Van Sinderen, however, said there was no significant Halloween boost. “It fell on a Wednesday, which is sort of meh,” he said. “When it [Halloween] falls on a weekend, it typically gets an outsize boost.”

But business was decent at the stores. Ken Perkins, president of the market-research company Retail Metrics Inc., noted in his monthly report that the stock market was in turmoil in October, but that was offset by 250,000 new jobs being added to the U.S. economy instead of the predicted 190,000. “That provided a lift to consumer spending,” he noted.

Same-store sales for L Brands, Inc. increased 4 percent in October. Its net sales for the month were $860.5 million compared with $794.1 million the previous year. In its October sales statement, the company forecasted its shares would dip $0.17 for the third quarter, which included a $20 million pretax charge for closing its Henri Bendel division.

Mall-based action sports retailer Zumiez Inc. saw its same-store sales in October inch up 1.6 percent. Its net sales for the month were $61.9 million compared with $61.5 million in October 2017.

Value retailer Cato Corp.’s October same-store sales dipped 1 percent with net sales of $62.1 million. John Cato, the retailer’s chairman, blamed extreme weather for the decline. “October same-store sales were below our expectations,” he said. “However, same-store sales in October had a slight negative impact from Hurricane Michael, causing business disruption and closed stores.”

In October, mall retailer The Buckle Inc., based in Kearney, Neb., saw its same-store sales dip 1 percent. Net sales for the four-week period ending Nov. 3 decreased 2.5 percent to $64.5 million compared with net sales of $66.1 million from the same four-week period last year. The Buckle, which is known for its vast selection of denim jeans, has 453 stores in 43 states compared with 462 stores last year.