Specialty apparel stores also delivered a batch of bad news this week. On Thursday, the struggling Gap Inc. said its October comparable-store sales fell 3 percent, and its third-quarter sales for stores open at least a year fell 2 percent. They were driven lower by continued weakness at its namesake and Banana Republic labels.
Also Thursday, Ann Inc. updated its third- and fourth-quarter outlooks, saying its third-quarter results at Ann Taylor and the LOFT brand fell short of expectations, "reflecting lower mall traffic and a highly promotional retail environment."
And on Friday, Abercrombie & Fitch said that its third-quarter sales came in below expectations.
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"Apparel will lag, and obviously Abercrombie & Fitch is one of the people that's causing it to lag," Customer Growth Partners' Johnson said.
Johnson's firm, which is calling for 3.4 percent holiday sales growth, accounted for apparel weakness when modeling out its forecast. He said in that forecast that he expects apparel sales will "lag the already sluggish overall growth pace," posting year-over-year growth of 2.4 percent. Consumer electronics sales, however, should grow 4.2 percent, which should result in a strong holiday from Best Buy, he said.
Analysts attribute much of the weakness in apparel to the fact that, save for the "athleisure" movement, the category has failed to latch onto any major trends that drive consumers to spend.