Update 4:46 PM
ICSC just published the numbers for October and they are bleak (membership req.). Same-store sales fell 0.9 percent. Excluding March and April figures (which can be highly volatile because of the year-to-year shifts in when Easter falls), this is the worst month on record going back to 1986, the earliest data in ICSC's report.
There's weakness across the board. Apparel stores were down 11.0 percent. Department stores were down 10.8 percent. Luxury stores were down an incredible 19.2 percent. The sectors that didn't go down include discounters, who were up 0.5 percent, wholesale clubs, up 1.6 percent, and drugstores, up 2.3 percent.
ICSC also trimmed its forecast for the holiday shopping season dropping its estimate to a gain of 1.0 percent down from its initial forecast of a 1.7 percent gain.
The one thing that makes the index a little difficult to track is the fact that the number of retailers that are reporting same-store sales continues to drop. Overall, the index for the month include 37 retailers. (For comparison, in 2005 the monthly average was 72 retailers.) That's the product of two things. One, many more retailers are controlled by private equity and so now do not report monthly same-store sales figures. Further, even some public retailers have stopped reporting same-store sales, saying it's no longer an accurate metric. (Of course, many of the retailers that stop reporting do so when they have weak figures.)
Update: According to CNBC, if you strip out Wal-Mart, same-store sells fell a mind-boggling 4.2 percent!