As some of the country’s largest retail chains rode the back-to-school rush to strong August gains, several area businesses also reported double-digit sales increases going into Labor Day weekend.
The encouraging August retail sales data, which were released by more than a dozen national chains Aug. 30, followed a report by the U.S. Commerce Department that consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in July, representing the first monthly increase since April.
Steve Rotker, owner of Family Discount Center & Ace Hardware at the Rye Ridge Shopping Center in Rye Brook, said consumers have shown a willingness to open their wallets and pocketbooks for additional items they may not have bought in the past two years.
“We had an extremely strong August,” said Rotker, adding that back-to-school sales – for which he said his store competes with the likes of Staples and Target – are up “a good couple of handfuls.”
“I think people are back in the mode of spending,” he said. “They’re spending maybe where they hadn’t in the past couple of years.”
Rotker attributed some of his store’s success to an increase in activity at the Rye Ridge Shopping Center, which he said acts as a crossroads between Rye, Port Chester, Harrison, Greenwich and Purchase, drawing customers from as far as Armonk or New Rochelle.
“We’re growing again just as this center is growing again,” he said. “I think it’s a destination center again.”
At the opposite end of the shopping center, Mel Siegel, owner of athletics outfitter Sportech, said the economy has an “encouraging” feel to it.
“We’ve actually had a very busy month. Our entire summer was good, but August was particularly good,” Siegel said, adding that August sales at Sportech were up “more than 10 percent” compared with last year. “The first few days of September have been encouraging also.”
Siegel said he has heard from other area retailers and storeowners who have experienced similar sales increases over the past month.
“It’s just the general feel of the economy and the consumer,” he said. “From my perspective, it seems encouraging.”
August chain-store sales, not counting sales at drug stores, rose by 6 percent compared to last year, the International Council of Shopping Centers reported Aug. 30 following the releases of monthly sales data by more than a dozen national retail chains.
Target Corp., with locations in Mount Kisco, Mount Vernon and White Plains, reported sales increased 4.7 percent to $5.54 billion for the four weeks ended Aug. 25 from $5.29 billion for the four weeks ended Aug. 27, 2011. For the same period, comparable-store sales increased 4.2 percent, Target said.
Macy’s Inc. reported August sales and comparable-store sales increases of 5.7 percent and 5.1 percent, Costco Wholesale Corp. reported increases of 8 percent and 6 percent, and Kohl’s Corp. reported increases of 5.3 percent and 3.4 percent.
Among specialty apparel chains, The Gap Inc. reported August sales and comparable-store sales increases of 9 percent each, TJX Cos. reported increases of 10 percent and eight percent, Nordstrom Inc. reported increases of 25 percent and 21 percent, and American Apparel Inc. reported comparable-store sales increased 24 percent without disclosing data for all August sales.
Patty Palmieri first opened LV2BFIT, a fashion fitness boutique, last October at the Rye Ridge Shopping Center, with a second location opening at The Gym in Armonk in May.
Despite the economy, she said she has no complaints.
“If you can float, you’re doing well,” Palmieri said. “All you need is foot traffic. If 10 people walk in here, eight are going to buy. So all you need is foot traffic.”
Siegel cautioned against looking too far into the numbers, noting that in an election year consumers could easily become discouraged from spending.
“I’m always very tentative when we’re coming into an election period,” Siegel said. Over the next two months, he said, “there’s certainly going to be a lot of election rhetoric. We’ll see.”