The US Apparel sector is having a hard time at the moment. Data from MasterCard spending and reports from the retailers themselves show that sales were weak this September. Consumer spending is down a little because of the rising gas prices and a difficult housing market; and unseasonally warm weather “quelled demand for fall fashions” in particular. Analysts also point out that the year on year comparison is tough (September 2006 was a particularly good month).

My own favourite American department store, Nordstrom (which normally beats Wall Street estimates), announced late last week that sales figures would rise less than expected. It is resorting to additional markdowns to reduce inventory levels. Smaller margins for Nordstrom means better prices for us, so there definitely is a silver lining for shoppers. Be on the lookout for good deals!

As an ex fashion buyer, I look to the merchandise when sales drop. While the other factors do have an undeniable impact on retail sales, the strength of the product is key. If the merchandise at Nordstrom was up to scratch in both in style and value this season, sales might not be so soft. I am a loyal Nordies girl and choose to spend many fashion dollars there, but I have not been as enticed lately. And the same holds true for my clients.

Let’s hope the sales are good and the floors are cleared to make space for the much anticipated holiday lines. It looks like the weather may start to lend a helping hand.