A stronger-than-expected lift in retail sales last month wasn't enough to hoist everybody off the ground.
Though May's 0.8 percent rise in sales at clothing and accessories stores marked the category's biggest monthly gain since November, the boost was not enough to notch an increase over the prior-year period.
On the contrary, data released by the Commerce Department on Tuesday showed that sales at these stores fell 0.5 percent compared with last May, as unseasonably cool weather, steep discounts and an uninspired assortment kept shoppers' grip tight on their wallets. What's more, that 0.5 percent decline marked the category's worst monthly result on a year-over-year basis.
Even as foot traffic picked up in early June, thanks to warmer weather, pent-up demand and midyear sales promotions, analysts remain skeptical that the category's sales have turned a corner. Instead, as several of the catalysts that are expected to fuel its sales appear more short-term in nature, many remain cautious on future trends.
"Overall, May was not a bad month for retail, but the numbers contain warning signs that households are still cautious about spending," Neil Saunders, CEO of Conlumino retail research firm, told investors.