Retailers struggled to sell shirts, shorts and shoes in July as shoppers spent less while they grappled with economic anxieties and volatility that has rocked financial markets.
With nearly all of the nation's major retailers reporting sales results to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the cumulative gain stands at 2.6%, according to Thursday's data.
Analysts had been expecting that sales at stores open longer than a year, the industry's most important performance measure, would be weak, particularly among teen and women's-wear retailers.
But the early results suggest that consumers across the board are far more concerned about credit and financing woes sparked by the slowdown in the U.S. housing market and the collapse of the subprime mortgage business.
"I had thought that we'd have a number that was better than this," said ICSC chief economist Mike Niemira. "Certainly the macroeconomic slowdown that we've seen since last summer has taken its toll on consumer spending -- directly through the housing channel and indirectly through the home-value concerns."
According to the report, high-end companies and discounters did well. Back to school sales (read teenagers) weren't around at all. At least not yet.
70% of the economy is not happy about what is happening in the economy and they are showing it through their wallets. Remember in the last GDP report personal consumption expenditures increased 1.5% -- one of the smallest gains during this expansion. If we see more numbers like this, we can probably expect a repeat of numbers like that.