Main Street racked up sales gains last month despite Wall Street's Oct. 19 collapse.
Consumers, apparently undaunted by the stock market's gyrations, bought $109.3 million worth of stereos, televisions and other home-entertainment equipment from Circuit City stores last month, for instance, boosting that chain's October sales 40 percent over last year's levels.
Meanwhile, shoppers at F.W. Woolworth Co. spent $512 million, 10.1 percent more than they spent in October 1986. And customers dropped a bundle at Dayton Hudson Corp. outlets, which had $809.7 million in sales in October, 18.9 percent better than a year ago.
Many other major retailers also reported robust October sales yesterday, despite the stock market's 508-point plunge Oct. 19. And while some experts have predicted that the stock drop will erode consumer confidence and cut into buying plans, retailers say that so far that does not seem to be the case -- although they admit to being nervous about Christmas sales.
"I have not talked to a retailer who feels that his sales have suffered due to the stock market fall," said Garry Curtis, manager of the Retail Bureau of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. "I also have not talked to one who doesn't have his fingers crossed about Christmas. And finally, I have not talked to one who really has an answer to what this all means."
Barry Bryant, a retail industry analyst at Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. in New York, said, "We don't see any effect" on buyer confidence from the stock market's dive. "If anything, sales for the month were at or above expectations. And there were some surprises, Circuit City being one of them."
Most of the improved sales stemmed from aggressive promotions. For example, there was Richmond-based Circuit City's pre-Halloween "The Electronic Thing" campaign -- a macabre affair featuring salespeople dressed as goblins and ghosts that lured thousands of buyers into the company's stores.
Circuit City is a retailer of the kinds of goods whose purchase can be easily postponed in a bad economy, or in one that consumers perceive to be bad. As a result, analysts and retailers have been watching those companies, as well as automobile dealership showrooms, to get some hint of consumer reaction to the stock market's erratic behavior.
"While it would be difficult to predict long-term direction for consumer spending, we are very encouraged with what we're hearing around the country," said Gary D. Doyle, senior vice president for Taubman Co. Inc. in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., one of the nation's largest shopping center developers and owner of the Woodward & Lothrop department store chain.