April retail sales jump 0.4% as e-commerce climbs 9.6% from last year

Dive Brief:

  • Retail sales in April (excluding sales from auto dealers, gas stations, building materials and food services) rose 0.4% from March 2018, according to the latest monthly report from the U.S. Commerce Department’s census bureau. March sales were revised upward to a 0.8% rise, from the previously reported 0.6%.
  • Nine of the 13 major retail categories posted positive sales results in April compared with March, according to retail think tank Coresight Research’s breakdown of the report. Clothing and accessories rose 1.4%, furniture sales rose 0.8% and e-commerce rose 0.6%. But health and personal care sales fell 0.4%, and electronics and appliance sales fell 0.1%, the Census Bureau said.
  • E-commerce sales in the period rose 9.6% from last year, while overall retail sales excluding auto rose 4.8% year over year, according to the government’s report.

Dive Insight:

April marked another month of robust sales for retailers, despite a cold spring in many parts of the country, thanks to an overall healthy economy.

“Spending was sluggish at the start of 2018, but April marked the second consecutive month of growth,” according to a report from Coresight CEO Deborah Weinswig. “More broadly, consumer spending has been lifted by a falling unemployment rate, which in April was a historically low 3.9%. Measures of consumer confidence have remained high in recent months, which economists attribute to the recent tax cuts, a healthy labor market and broader economic growth.”

And tax cuts could help mitigate the rise in gas prices this year, according to NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

“Retail sales growth remains solid and on track as households benefit from tax cuts even though they have faced unseasonable weather and bumpy financial markets,” Kleinhenz said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive. “And a solid job market, recent wage gains and elevated confidence translate into ongoing spending support.”

But it’s worth looking at just where shoppers are spending the most: As first quarter reports have come in for 39 retail chains tracked by Retail Metrics, retail earnings are up 15.8% year over year, with just four retailers accounting for all that reported growth. Drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens both turned in “sizeable” first quarter surprises that accounted for about 300 basis points of reported earnings growth, according to a Retail Metrics note emailed to Retail Dive. Costco was responsible for another 300 basis points of earnings growth and Home Depot, which reported a 20% year-over-year first quarter operating income boost this week, is responsible for 1,000 basis points.

Without Home Depot, CVS, Walgreens or Costco however, reported Q1 retail earnings fell 0.7%, according to Retail Metrics.

E-commerce continues to outpace in-store sales, according to two indices of U.S. retailers from ProShares, measuring year to date sales through market close on May 14. The Solactive-ProShares Bricks and Mortar Retail Store Index (which includes leading legacy retail companies) fell 3.08%, while the ProShares Online Retail Index (which tracks tracks U.S. and non-U.S. retailers primarily selling online or through other non-store channels with a market capitalization of at least $500 million, including Amazon) rose 19.26%.

Retail Sales Inch Up in April

The National Retail Federation said that retail sales in April showed a 2.8 percent year-over-year increase in the U.S retail market, excluding auto sales, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“Retail sales growth remains solid and on track as households benefit from tax cuts even though they have faced unseasonable weather and bumpy financial markets,” said Jack Kleinhenz, the chief economist for the National Retail Federation, based in Washington, D.C. “The tax cuts and higher savings levels should help consumers afford the recent surge in gasoline prices. And a solid job market, recent wage gains and elevated confidence translate into ongoing spending support.”

The NRF broke down April results for different retail categories. Results were mixed for apparel stores. Sales for clothing and clothing-accessory stores dipped 0.4 percent in a year-over-year basis. However, April apparel sales were up 1.4 percent compared to the previous month.

Online and other non-store sales were up 12.2 percent in a year-over-year comparison. Compared to the previous month, sales increased 0.6 percent for e-retailers.

Ken Perkins, president of the market-research group Retail Metrics, also posted a recent note saying business was good in April. He said that expectations for the month had been low because cold weather was predicted for much of the U.S. Wall Street analysts also forecast that many consumers may have been suffering from shopping fatigue. The nation’s retailers experienced a spike in business because Easter took place on April 1.

In Perkins’s research note, he discussed the April performance for L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. Bath & Body Works reported a 6 percent same-store-sales gain during April. Victoria’s Secret posted a 2 percent decline.

Retail sales show healthy jump in April

April’s retail sales were 0.4 percent higher compared to March and 2.8 percent higher compared to a year ago.

The sales data, from the National Retail Federation, does not include sales at gas stations, restaurants or auto sales.

“Retail sales growth remains solid and on track as households benefit from tax cuts even though they have faced unseasonable weather and bumpy financial markets,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a press release on the data. “The tax cuts and higher savings levels should help consumers afford the recent surge in gasoline prices. And a solid job market, recent wage gains and elevated confidence translate into ongoing spending support.”

 

May Retail Jobs See Huge Year-Over-Year Increase

he retail industry employment increased by 28,800 jobs seasonally adjusted in May over April and 100,200 jobs unadjusted year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said Friday. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Overall, U.S. businesses added 223,000 jobs, the Labor Department said.

“May’s rebound in jobs, together with yesterday’s report of solid income growth and the rise in consumer confidence, points to the economy functioning very well,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Solid fundamentals in the job market are encouraging for retail spending, as employment gains generate additional income for consumers and consequently increase spending.”

“With the unemployment rate of 3.8 percent at its lowest since April 2000, this shows that many industries, including retail, are hiring and creating jobs at a steady pace. We expect this rate to continue to decline as the fiscal stimulus and tax cuts are further absorbed in the economy,” Kleinhenz said.

May’s numbers followed an upwardly revised combined increase of 19,300 jobs for March and April. The three-month moving average in May showed an increase of 19,000 jobs.

Retail registered monthly gains nearly in all segments with the most robust increases concentrated in three sectors: general merchandise stores, which were up 13,400; clothing and clothing accessory stores, up 6,500 and building and garden supplies, up 6,000. Losses were concentrated in two sectors: health and personal care stores, down 800 jobs and non-store which includes online, down 1,100 jobs.

Economy-wide, average hourly earnings in May increased by 8 cents–2.7 percent–year-over-year.

Kleinhenz noted that retail job numbers reported by the Labor Department do not provide an accurate picture of the industry because they count only employees who work in stores while excluding retail workers in other parts of the business such as corporate headquarters, distribution centers, call centers and innovation labs.

NRF: Retail Employment Gains

According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry employment in the U.S. increased by 28,800 jobs seasonally adjusted in May over April and 100,000 jobs unadjusted year-over-year.

The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Overall, U.S. businesses added 223,000 jobs, the NRF said, citing U.S. Labor Department figures.

May’s retail employment follows an upwardly revised combined increase of 19,300 jobs for March and April. The three-month moving average in May increased by 19,000 jobs.

The sectors demonstrating the strongest employment growth were general merchandise stores, up 13,400 jobs; clothing and clothing accessory stores, up 6,500 jobs; and building and garden supplies, up 6,000 jobs. Employment declines occurred in health and personal care stores, down 800 jobs, and non-store including e-commerce, down 1,100 jobs.

“May’s rebound in jobs together with yesterday’s report of solid income growth and the rise in consumer confidence points to the economy functioning very well,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. “Solid fundamentals in the job market are encouraging for retail spending, as employment gains generate additional income for consumers and consequently increase spending.”

Cleveland’s economy fails to gain traction

A better job of measuring performance is key to turning around region’s fortunes

Illustration by Daniel Zakroczemski for Crain’s

While there is some question about whether he actually said it and exactly how he said it, business thinker Peter Drucker is credited with a mantra that has wide acceptance in management circles: “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.”

Expanding on that maxim, the need to better measure the strengths and weaknesses of the Northeast Ohio economy, as a prelude to improving it, may end up being a key takeaway from Jon Pinney’s June 8 speech at the City Club of Cleveland. There, the managing partner of the Kohrman Jackson & Krantz law firm pronounced that the Northeast Ohio economy was “dead last or near the bottom in most economic metrics.”

He cited recent national media coverage, such as Forbes’ “Best Cities for Jobs”survey, which ranked Cleveland last out of 71 major metro areas, and Business Insider’s ranking of the country’s 40 best and worst regional economies, where Cleveland also placed last.

As Business Insider reported, Cleveland had the highest February 2017 unemployment rate, at 5.7%, among the 40 biggest metro areas, and its job growth was the second-lowest, with non-farm payroll employment rising just 0.3% between February 2016 and February 2017.

The struggles of the region’s economy are nothing new. Some data make that point when they are periodically announced, such as Census Bureau reports that show the region’s population decline and when the Labor Department announces the monthly unemployment rate.

Pinney was highlighting the need to pay more attention on a regular basis to those and other measurements of the region’s performance and to compare that performance to other regions. He closed his comments by making a “grand challenge” to business and civic leaders to face up to the region’s poor showing when compared to the rest of the country and find solutions to the region’s economic sluggishness.

Before that can happen, however, the region needs better data — data that have not been as readily available in Northeast Ohio as they are in some other areas.

In Columbus, for example, Columbus 2020, the region’s economic development agency, posts on its website updated monthly data on the size and composition of the regional workforce, including a graph which shows if the employed workforce is growing or declining and a pie chart of which industries employ the most people.

It’s a barebones example of what economists call an “economic dashboard.”

Greater MSP, an economic development agency in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, goes further. Its “Regional Indicators Dashboard” tracks changes in more than 50 economic, environmental and social outcomes and how the region ranks with a peer group of regional economies. It includes everything from average weekly wages to percentage of the population with a college degree to the cost of electricity.

Don Iannone, a Highland Heights-based economic development consultant, produced a dashboard for Ashtabula County after becoming CEO of the Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County in 2014. It provided a wide variety of regularly updated information for several years covering data on employment and business formation in the county.

But because the economy was struggling, business and civic leaders weren’t always happy to see their economic difficulties on display on the internet.

“People didn’t like the bad news. They just didn’t,” he said. But to him, it was a necessary regular assessment. “I said, it’s actually like going in for a physical and the doctor gives you all the news, good and bad,” Iannone said.

In 2005, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland produced an economic dashboard proposal for the Fund for Our Economic Future, a collaboration of foundations and other philanthropies that focuses on regional economic development. The goal was “to encourage and advance a common and highly focused regional economic development agenda that can lead to a long-term economic transformation of the Northeast Ohio (NEO) economy.”

The work, said one economist who worked on the project, was noble, but was overwhelmed by other priorities at the time.

“The great recession had a major influence on how we could approach this activity,” said Jack Kleinhenz, an economist now running Kleinhenz & Associates in Cleveland Heights. “In 2005, the economy started to go in the tank and everybody was preoccupied, I hate to say it, more by survival.”

That effort is being revived.

Earlier this year, the Fund for Our Economic Future released “2 Tomorrows,” a report on the challenges facing the 18-county Northeast Ohio economy. “We are not innovating and investing to the level needed to drive and sustain global competitiveness,” the report stated. “We need to change what we consider success.”

Beyond basic economic concerns, the report focused on the concentration of poverty in the region and on racial inequalities in economic outcomes and challenges to create good jobs and rising incomes across the region.

It also offers a set of measurements to track how well the region is succeeding at meeting those challenges. “What gets measured gets done,” the study argued.

“In ‘2 Tomorrows,’ we put forth what we think is an effective way to measure the economy that looks like the right things,” fund president Brad Whitehead said. “We’ll be doing it quarterly, and it’s an open question whether anyone else will salute it.”

Its measurements look beyond the basic economic metrics and create a “Growth & Opportunity Scorecard” that creates measurements for metrics such as the growth of young businesses, the effort to improve prosperity and how well economic growth is shared across all people in the region.

“We began by thinking, blank slate, what would a successful regional economy look like?” said Peter Truog, director of civic innovation and insight at the fund. He called it an effort to “look at a group of peer cities and see how we stack up.”

Team Northeast Ohio, the regional economic development nonprofit, does gather information on the region’s economy and workforce. While it issues quarterly data to news media, it uses the data primarily to encourage businesses and site selectors considering expanding in the region.

Its president, Bill Koehler, does see the need for greater sharing of the information its researchers gather and would like to see some organization, not his, take a lead role in gathering and sharing that information.

“We need a common place where (this) data resides,” Koehler said. “But even if there is a centralized place where all the data is, we still have to have a common understanding of what the right performance drivers and metrics are, and all of us have to align our strategies around that. It’s not happening enough and people are starting to recognize and challenging those of us in the economic development community to take on the responsibility of doing a better job.”

May Retail Sales Increased 5.6 Percent Over Last Year as Economy Continues to Grow

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jun 14, 2018–May retail sales increased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over April and 5.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year as a growing economy prompted consumers to continue to spend, the National Retail Federation said today. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“The economy is looking strong and households have a solid financial foundation on which to base their spending,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said, noting increased take-home pay thanks in part to tax cuts, unemployment at a long-time low and good availability of consumer credit. “We have seen ongoing momentum over the last several months and believe sales growth should remain healthy and consistent with our 2018 outlook. Nonetheless, inflation and rising oil prices are complicating the picture. And new tariffs or a trade war would certainly be negatives that would increase prices and reduce both consumer purchasing power and consumer confidence.”

The three-month moving average was up 4.6 percent over the same period a year ago, topping NRF’s forecast that 2018 retail sales will grow between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent over 2017.

The May results build on improvement seen in April, which was up 0.5 percent monthly and 2.8 percent year over year.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said overall May sales – including automobiles, gasoline and restaurants – were up 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted from April and up 5.9 percent year-over-year.

Specifics from key retail sectors during May include:

Online and other non-store sales were up 9.1 percent year-over-year and up 0.1 percent over April seasonally adjusted.Clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 8.2 percent year-over-year and up 1.3 percent from April seasonally adjusted.General merchandise stores were up 5.6 percent year-over-year and up 1.2 percent from April seasonally adjusted.Building materials and garden supply stores were up 5.3 percent year-over-year and up 2.4 percent from April seasonally adjusted.Grocery and beverage stores were up 4.4 percent year-over-year and unchanged from April.Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 4.2 percent year-over-year but down 2.4 percent from April seasonally adjusted.Electronics and appliance stores were up 2.8 percent year-over-year and up 0.2 percent from April seasonally adjusted.Health and personal care stores were up 2.6 percent year-over-year and up 0.5 percent from April seasonally adjusted.Sporting goods stores were down 0.5 percent year-over-year and down 1.1 percent from April seasonally adjusted.

About NRF

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF.com

Retail and real estate column: Buyer demand creates sizzling housing market

 

The median sales price for a home in northeast Indiana was up 8.9 percent in May from the same month a year earlier, according to a new report from the Upstate Alliance of Realtors Multiple Listing Service.

Inventory levels shrank 17.8 percent and the percentage of original sales price received by sellers was up 1.2 percent, to 97.9 percent. New listings increased 10 percent.

“The intensity of buyer demand is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history, said Kim Ward, 2018 UPSTAR MLS president. “Now that we’re in the spring selling season, I’m glad to see that new listings have increased to help accommodate the demand and competition for desirable homes.”

For the year to date through May, the median sales price is up 6.2 percent and inventories are down 8.4 percent for the same period in 2017.

UPSTAR’s primary coverage area includes the counties of Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Noble, Wells and Whitley.

SVN Parke Group

Brandon Downey represented both the lessee, Tonn and Blank Construction LLC, and the lessor, Leo #1 LLC, in the lease of 4,200 square feet of industrial space at 6016 Highview Drive, Units 4 & 5.

Downey represented both the lessee, Mike Lee, and the lessor, Rose Ann Turner and Rose Ann Turner Trustees, in the lease of 4,500 square feet of industrial space at 5015 Speedway Drive, Unit D.

Downey represented the lessor, Barry Knoll LLC, and the lessees in the following lease transactions: First Community Care LLC in the renewal of a lease of 4,800 square feet of industrial space at 3404 Metro Drive, Suites B & D; David Wall in the new lease of 5,400 square feet of industrial space at 6015 Highview Drive, Unit A; and Tech Solutions Corp. in the new lease of 1,800 square feet of industrial space located at 6015 Highview Drive, Unit C.

Diana Parent represented the seller, Texas Roadhouse Holdings LLC, and Jim Lohman represented the buyer, RU Twins LLC, in the sale of the property at 620 W. Washington Center Road.

Bill Beard represented both the seller, Anne Pape, and the buyer, Andrew Stores, in the sale of 1,744 square feet of office space at 3450 Stellhorn Drive.

Bradley Co.

Tyler Binkley represented the tenant, Georgetown Professional Center LLC, and the tenant, JB’s Barber Shop, in the lease of retail space in Georgetown North, 6424 Georgetown North Blvd.

Kienan O’Rourke represented the tenant, GAI Consultants, in the lease of 6,239 square feet of office space at 9921 Dupont Circle Drive West.

CBRE/Sturges

John Caffray represented the seller, Beedy Properties LLC, in the sale of a 20,748 square-foot industrial building at 2403 Shoaff Road, Huntertown.

Caffray represented the lessee, Forefront Management LLC, in the lease of 1,549 square feet of office space at 2250 North Pointe Drive, Warsaw.

Neal Bowman and Rebecca Worrell represented the tenant, Dish Network Services LLC, in the renewal of a lease of 9,328 square feet of space at 3230 Rosetta Place, South Bend.

Bowman and Worrell represented the landlord, Chapel Ridge LLC,and also represented the tenant, AZFIT LLC, doing business as 9Round, in the lease of 1,280 square feet of space at 10454 Maysville Road. This is 9Round’s third Fort Wayne location.

Retail sales top forecast

May retail sales increased 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over April and 5.6 percent unadjusted year-over-year as a growing economy prompted consumers to continue to spend, the National Retail Federation reported.

The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“The economy is looking strong and households have a solid financial foundation on which to base their spending,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a June 14 release. “We have seen ongoing momentum over the last several months and believe sales growth should remain healthy and consistent with our 2018 outlook. Nonetheless, inflation and rising oil prices are complicating the picture. And new tariffs or a trade war would certainly be negatives that would increase prices and reduce both consumer purchasing power and consumer confidence.”

The three-month moving average was up 4.6 percent over the same period a year ago, topping NRF’s forecast that 2018 retail sales would grow between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent over 2017.

  • Greater Fort Wayne Business

Retail decline in region is ‘a permanent shift’

As more people do their shopping online, retailing in Northeast Ohio is changing. And while most brick-and-mortar stores are not in danger of going the way of the dinosaur, in a region where the population isn’t expanding, every online sale has a cost in the malls, in the storefronts and in jobs lost.

By more than one estimate, including by local economist Jack Kleinhenz, the chief economist for the National Retail Federation, online sales now make up 10% of retail sales. Sales, buoyed by rising prices, continue to grow modestly, though accurate regional sales figures are not available.

“The decline in store traffic is not a trend anymore. It’s a shift, a permanent shift,” said Elad Granot, dean of the Dauch College of Business and Economics at Ashland University. “So brick-and-mortar retailers have to figure out what they can offer that Amazon can’t, and it’s getting to be a shorter and shorter list.”

Granot was referring to online retailer Amazon.com‘s move into the grocery business with its purchase of Whole Foods, and its expanding role in logistics. The logistics push includes a growing fleet of cargo airplanes and its fulfillment centers, such as the ones it is building in North Randall and Euclid, on sites of former shopping malls.

Granot said some retail categories are relatively safe. He said, for example, that shopping for makeup can entail trying out different products with an in-store stylist — what he calls an experience. The categories that should be worried about Amazon, he believes, are the categories that have no experience attached to consumption.

“If I need Band-Aids, I’m not going to wait until the next time I’m at CVS, I’m going to order them on Amazon right now,” Granot said, noting that he recently was on a flight of stairs with a student who was ordering a pair of sneakers online as they walked. “CVS provides me with no experience when I shop for Band-Aids.”

According to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the retail trade in the seven-county Cleveland metropolitan area lost 8,758 jobs, 5.9% of total jobs in retailing, in the decade between 2006 and 2016. During the same time period, the number of retail establishments dropped 6.5%, a net loss, since new stores keep opening, of 601 establishments.

Much of that loss was in Cuyahoga County as new retail developments sprout up in neighboring counties. Over the decade, the core county lost 5,927 jobs, or 8.6% of its retail jobs, and 464, or 10%, of its retail establishments.

And the decline is continuing, according to preliminary jobs numbers for 2017.

While employment in major Northeast Ohio sectors such as manufacturing, financial services and education and health services held steady or rose, the region continued to lose retail jobs between January 2017 and January 2018, according to the state data.

Regional retail sales are growing, according to Alex Boehnke, manager of public affairs at the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants (OCRM), though regional sales are not well tracked.

The best estimate of the trend in retail sales in Ohio and its metropolitan areas is done by the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati for OCRM. In November, as the holiday shopping season was beginning, the center estimated that retail sales in the Cleveland metropolitan area for the 2017 holiday season would grow only 3.1%. Sales in the Akron metro were expected to grow only 1.2%. Estimates of national holiday sales growth ranged from 4% to 6%.

“We don’t have the population coming in,” Kleinhenz said. “The pie is not growing.”

CBRE, a national real estate brokerage with a large Cleveland operation, calculates that only two metropolitan areas have more retail square feet per person than Northeast Ohio, where there is 29.9 square feet of retail for every person in the area. In its August 2017 report, “Dead Malls: a boost for retail?,” which is subtitled, “Is retail in Cleveland dying, or is it just overbuilt,” Cleveland-based research analyst Brandon Isner found that only Orlando, with 30.4 square feet per resident (a deceptive figure for a tourist city), and Atlanta, with 30 square feet per resident, top Cleveland.

“It is clear that Cleveland has a supply issue in regard to retail real estate,” Isner wrote. “(W)ithout the population growth that other metro areas have enjoyed, extra retail will weaken what remains.”

In Cuyahoga County, retailers in two mixed-use developments will be opening their doors in the coming months. Opening in the spring, Pinecrest, in Orange Village, has lured several dozen retailers, including Whole Foods, Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma. In Shaker Heights, the Van Aken District will add about 100,000 square feet of retail space come summer.

Similarly, retail building booms in Avon in Lorain County and in and around the site of the former Geauga Lake amusement park in Geauga County have cost Cuyahoga County retail sales.

“There is no doubt there is a shift going on,” Kleinhenz said. “Are we overstored? In many cases, that is accurate. It’s just that it’s not necessarily that retail is declining broadly.”

Joseph Khouri, a real estate broker with CBRE in Cleveland, agrees with Granot. He, too, believes the retailers who survive will be the ones who sell an experience and activity related retail. He pointed to Toys R Us, which recently announced it was closing all of its stores nationwide after declaring bankruptcy.

“They didn’t differentiate themselves from online sellers,” he said. “People are gravitating toward experiential retail. Specialty food retailers, arts and crafts, home goods products that you have to touch and feel — unique offerings that are hard to mimic online.”

That ability of local retail to be an experience leads Granot to say that he believes local, boutique retailers can also survive.

“Shopping local, especially in Northeast Ohio, is a point of pride,” he said. “There is a lot of room for local retailers to do well, as long as they offer an additional benefit beyond the actual product and price, because it’s going to be increasingly harder to beat Amazon.”

Jay Miller

Crain’s Cleveland

Toys “R” Us to start liquidation sales; economist says closings don’t represent entire industry

Jack Kleinhenz, Ph.D and chief economist for the world’s largest retail trade association, said while the rash of reported national retail store closings and job losses are real, he wouldn’t say they are a direct indication that the retail industry is moving backward.

“I think there is misinformation or a misunderstanding about the health of the retail industry,” said Kleinhenz, who is also principal and chief economist of Kleinhenz and Associates, a Cleveland-based registered investment advisory firm that specializes in financial consulting and wealth management services.

“We recognize these store closings are happening, but overall we’ve got to be careful to not focus just on store closings because other areas are performing,” he said, noting that in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50,000 jobs were added in retail nationwide including auto sales and gas sales. “If we take out those two categories then, still 46,000 retail jobs were added in the month of February.”

However, according to U.S. Labor Department data, job loss can’t be ignored. Between 2001 and 2016, jobs at traditional department stores fell 46 percent. For perspective, that’s a bigger drop than other troubled industries such as coal mining (32 percent drop) and factory employment (25 percent drop) during the same time span.

MarketWatch reported that in 2017, department stores alone lost 29,900 jobs, while general merchandising stores cut 15,700 workers. In addition, last year’s BLS data also showed retail discharges and layoffs grew to a total of 212,000 nationwide – the highest level in nearly two years.

Kleinhenz said based on all of the area data he’s analyzed and the NRF’s forecast, they still believe 2018 will be a stronger year for retail.

Some department stores are moving toward cost fulfillment centers, while other e-commerce retailers, discount stores, luxury goods, and even some small businesses with specialized niches are growing.

In Northeast Ohio for instance, Amazon is building a fulfillment center in Euclid in what once was a retail strip that included a shuttered Toys “R” Us. The dead mall will be replaced by an Amazon fulfillment center, scheduled to open in 2019.

A similar, but larger, project is under construction and set to open next year in North Randall, where Randall Park Mall once stood. Between the two Amazon facilities, the company will employ more than 3,000 people.

“The landscape is changing and the way the industry is operating is changing. They’re looking to be more cost efficient. Ultimately retailers want to deliver good price and value, which is no different than any other industry,” he said.

“Undoubtedly they’re facing significant competition and consequently they need to change the way they’re operating given the environment.”

RETAIL CLOSINGS

The national retail landscape is changing rapidly with a great deal of upheaval as brick-and-mortar stores continue to struggle to change and adapt in the highly competitive digital age.

Claire’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on Monday, is the latest in a string of mall-based stores shutting down in what’s fast becoming one of the biggest waves of retail closures in decades.

But mall-based stores aren’t the only casualties of consumers increasingly more comfortable ordering products online. Toys “R” Us, another company left deep in debt from a leveraged buyout, said last week that it was liquidating its 735 stores in the United States. The bankrupt retailer is closing one-fifth of its U.S. outlets, which could end up being more than 180 stores including locations in Mentor, Western Hills, Dayton and Dublin, Ohio. Liquidation sales were to begin Thursday, but were delayed this morning until possibly Friday or later.

In 2017, nearly 9,000 stores closed across retail sectors. Cushman & Wakefield said that number will be between 10,000 and 11,000 doors this year–and that’s fewer than the 13,000 the analysts initially forecast, thanks in part to Simon Properties’ legal action attempting to block Starbucks from closing Teavana locations.

“Not everyone is shrinking! Off-price apparel, discounters, warehouse club stores and dollar stores will continue to post record growth,” Garrick Brown, vice president of Retail Intelligence for the Americas, said in a January blog.

“Grocery stores and most restaurants will continue to account for growth, even as the weakest concepts will increasingly struggle with a saturated marketplace,” he said.

Still, last year was a record year for both store closings and retail bankruptcies. Dozens of retailers including Macy’s, Sears, and J.C. Penney shuttered thousands of stores — far exceeding recessionary levels — and 50 chains filed for bankruptcy.

The commercial real estate firm CoStar has estimated that nearly a quarter of malls in the U.S., or roughly 310 of the nation’s 1,300 shopping malls, are at high risk of losing an anchor tenant. Chains that have confirmed they will be closing locations in 2018 include Bon-Ton, Gap, Sears-Kmart and Walgreens.

In January, Walmart announced plans to close 63 Sam’s Club stores across the U.S. including one in Cincinnati.

Teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch is bouncing back by cutting its stores. The New Albany, Ohio-based company was praised by analysts easier this month after it announced positive same-store sales growth in its fourth-quarter results. Same-store sales were up 9 percent overall at the company, boosted by 11 percent growth at Hollister and 5 percent at the Abercrombie brand itself.

But at the same time, the company also announced it would be closing up to 60 Abercrombie and Hollister stores in 2018. Closing store locations have not been identified yet.

By Marcia Pledger, The Plain Dealer

cleveland.com