Worries about the state of the U.S. economy finally worked their way into same-store sales numbers in October, after several months of surprising stength.
Reuters reports that the U.S. same-store sales index rose only 3.5 percent during the previous month, more than a percentage point below expectations.
Even as the stock market rose, unemployment barely budged, and shoppers faced a barrage of scary headlines last month that gave them pause about spending, experts said.
"This uncertainty, the news changing every day, it causes a freeze," said Wharton School professor Barbara Kahn.
ICSC also reported the slowest month since March 2011, with same-store sales growth of 3.7 percent. Apparel stores posted the worst results, with flat growth. Wholesale clubs performed the best, with growth of 9 percent during the month. Results in most other retail sectors fell below 5 percent.
ICSC's results were based on a survey of 25 chain retailers.
Kantar Retail, which tallied 24 chains, mostly apparel and department stores, reported that its same-store sales index rose 3.9 percent. Like everyone else, Kantar attributed the lackluster results to consumers' worries about the economy.
The blog Retail Sails also reported a 3.9 percent increase, based on its survey of 23 retail chains. According to Retail Sails:
Laggards in October included the usual suspect The Gap (-6%), who announced recently they would close roughly a quarter of their U.S. stores to focus on overseas growth, J.C. Penney (-2.6%) which continues to lose market share to Macy's (+2.2%) and Kohl's (+3.9%), Wet Seal (-9.7%) and Bon-Ton (-10.2%).