U.S. retail sales have declined for three straight months in a row, and, as anyone who took Econ 101 knows, weak employment numbers buttress weak spending, Despite lower gas prices, unemployment doesn’t help. Even for those with jobs, marketplace despair and ennui seems to be sapping consumer confidence.

This is the longest losing streak since 2008, when the economy generally, and retail specifically, imploded. That experience did, however, teach companies to introduce tighter inventory controls, so retailers are likely to cut back on orders to keep inventory, consumer spending, and their bottom lines in some sort of sync.

Smart brands continue to build engagement and loyalty between their consumers. And while loyalty and real engagement are, in fact, leading-indicators of profitability, they are not, unfortunately, a guarantee of overall economic consumer confidence. But loyalty is better than no loyalty and is almost always a guarantee that you won’t have to market your goods on price and promotions alone. Even in a bad economy, the “Rule of Six,” kicks in, to wit: loyal customers are six times more likely to rebuff competitive offers. Especially price-based offers.

According to the consumers themselves via our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, here’s how Department Store brands currently rank when it comes to loyalty and engagement, which matches up pretty well when it comes to actual profits:

  1. T.J. Maxx
  2. Marshall’s
  3. Macy’s
  4. Dillard’s
  5. Kohl’s
  6. Sears
  7. JCPenney

The Rule of Six does, however, comes with some reassuring metrics when it comes to consumer confidence. Consumers are six times more likely to think better of you, and six times more likely to recommend you to friends.
And based on the current economic climate, retailers can use all the friends they can get!