Dramatic declines in the market traditionally cause high-end consumers, who have the greatest exposure to stocks, to cut back. Given that this group accounts for as much as 65 percent of sales, Beemer said such a pullback could translate into a holiday sales decline of between 5 and 7 percent compared to last year.
"When you look at this there is no silver lining," Beemer said. "It is just some scary, spooky stuff."
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The volatility of the past few days adds to what is already an uncertain environment for retailers and shoppers alike. Though consumer confidence has rebounded over the past few years and gas prices remain low, retailers haven't seen as meaningful of a translation into higher revenues as many had expected.
According to a report by Retail Metrics on Friday, 36 retailers in their latest financial reports lowered their earnings forecasts, compared to just five that raised them.
And last month, the National Retail Federation lowered its economic forecast for the year from 4.1 percent growth to a 3.5 percent gain, citing "unexpected slow growth recorded during the first half of the year."
At that time, NRF President Matthew Shay said that despite hurdles, the trade group remained "optimistic that consumer spending during the second half of the year will benefit from recent improvements in housing and labor markets along with lower energy costs."
NRF's chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, said he's confident the market decline does not indicate the economy is headed for another recession, as volatility is "to be expected." Instead, he called the movement an "overreaction to fears of a global slowdown," adding that it's "too soon to make any changes to the near-term outlook for U.S. economic growth and consumer spending."
"We are carefully watching the markets and like everyone else are waiting to see the smoke clear," he said.
Barr said the retailers that would be best prepared to handle a decline in consumer demand are value-focused companies that place their orders later than the traditional players—namely, the fast-fashion stores. He also listed the off-price segment as a potential beneficiary.
"If you think about the value consumer, this just plays right into their hand," he said.