Bespoke’s Consumer Pulse Report is an analysis of a huge consumer survey that we’ve been running each month since 2014.  Our goal with this survey is to track trends across the economic and financial landscape in the US.  Using the results from our proprietary monthly survey, we dissect and analyze all of the data and publish the Consumer Pulse Report, which we sell access to on a subscription basis.  Sign up for a 30-day free trial to our Bespoke Consumer Pulse subscription service.  With a trial, you’ll get coverage of consumer electronics, social media, streaming media, retail, autos, and much more.  The report also has numerous proprietary US economic data points that are extremely timely and useful for investors.

We’ve just released our most recent monthly report to Pulse subscribers, and it’s definitely worth the read if you’re curious about the health of the consumer in the current market environment.  Start a 30-day free trial for a full breakdown of all of our proprietary Pulse economic indicators.

You don’t need the Consumer Pulse Report to tell you that it has been a difficult few years for traditional brick and mortar retailers, especially for department stores.  Just this morning, the September Non-Farm Payrolls report showed that the retail sector shed 11,400 jobs in September and has lost a total of 197K jobs since the sector’s peak reading in January 2017.  With things being so bad for the sector for so long, though, there seems to be an increasing number of investors who think that the sector is due for a rebound, but based on the latest data from our Pulse report, it doesn’t look like things are showing any sign of improvement. In fact, trends may actually be getting worse.

The chart below is from a question that asks respondents which department stores they have visited over the last month or whether they haven’t visited any of them at all.  In this month’s survey, a record 55.4% of respondents said they didn’t visit any of the department stores listed, while the percentage of consumers visiting each individual department store is at or near record lows.  There was a time in the not so distant past where the seven stores listed were the first store shoppers thought of when they were planning to shop, but today they don’t even come to mind.

You can see in the chart that the seasonal holiday shopping period has been getting worse and worse for department stores as well.  In 2015 and 2016, we saw huge dips in the “None of the above” reading in December, meaning lots of department stores saw a pick-up in visits.  In 2017 and 2018, though, the dips for “None of the above” were much smaller.

What’s it going to take to get consumers back to stores?  That’s the question every brick and mortar retailer has been trying to answer for the last few years along with how to maximize sales online.  Providing a better “experience” for in-store shoppers has been the major focus, but experience can only take you so far.

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