Friday, February 8, 2008

Worst retail sales in 40 years.

You know, not that it matters. There was a sidebar on the Business page of the Bulletin. The Oregonian (BELOW) has a 4 parter talking about negative economics at least.

For years now, almost every story I've read about the American economy talked about how important it was that the consumer keep spending. Something along the lines of 75% of what counts is consumer spending, and as long as they keep spending, we won't have a recession. (opps, found it in one of the article below; "two thirds of all economic activity."

Flash forward, a 40 year low, and it's barely mentioned. This after a horrible December.

It just seems sort of strange to me.

It also seems significant to me that almost all the stores listed below, had worse than originally reported sales. Nordstrom's, for instance, dropped 6.6 instead of .07: a small difference, heh.

Don't know what this means to Mom and Pop's, but the article goes out of it's way to mention that the wealthier customers are moving over to the discount stores, which I would think wouldn't bode well for smaller luxury stores. (I've never thought the rich are going to spend more in my store just because they're rich.) While Bend may have it's share of wealthy folk, the survey highlighted on the front page of the Bulletin makes it clear that the much larger majority aren't rich. It also seems to me that the chain stores with the horrible sales are MORE LIKELY to get business in tough times, which make the stats even worse.

Again, my caveat that my store is just fine, thank you. At least partly because I AM paying attention to the downside!


• Part 1: Consumers turn thrifty, fanning fears of downturn

• Part 2: Home drop, price increases for food, gas cause unease

• Part 3: Gift-card holders go for the basics

• Part 4: Oregon's indicators troubling

Consumers turn thrifty, fanning fears of downturn
Friday, February 08, 2008

Chain stores tally weakest January in nearly 40 years

It's farewell to fashion, later for lattes and buh-bye to baubles as Americans shed unnecessary expenses in light of a U.S. economic nosedive.

Sales at chain stores open at least a year posted the weakest January increases in nearly four decades, since the monthly data began being tabulated in 1970, according to a survey of 43 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

The so-called same-store sales rose an average 0.5 percent, well below a 1.5 percent forecast. The results followed an anemic 0.7 percent pace in December and were below the 2.1 percent gain for all of 2007.

Department stores and mall-based apparel retailers posted some of the steepest declines.

J.C. Penney Co. saw same-store sales at its department stores drop 1.9 percent, though that was better than the 6.3 percent decline that analysts forecast. The upscale Nordstrom suffered a 6.6 percent decline, far worse than the 0.7 percent decrease expected. Macy's Inc. had already reported a worse-than-expected 7.1 percent drop.

Discount retailers have held up better as higher-income shoppers shift to them. But mainstay customers are cutting back.

Target Corp. had a 1.1 percent decline, worse than the 0.6 percent decline analysts expected. Wal-Mart reported a 0.5 percent gain, far below the 2.0 percent increase expected.

Home drop, price increases for food, gas cause unease
Friday, February 08, 2008

January's bottom-scraping retail results have extended a streak of news that indicates rising consumer distress.

Such a trend might sound economic, but its implications are broad -- for jobs, incomes, spending, imports and so on.

That's because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the nation's economic activity, and it appears to have stalled from an already slowing pace seen over the past year.

The spending restraint reflects a time-tested truth about economic downturns: When the economy gets shaky, nonessential spending dries up first -- and sometimes fast.

Shoppers have had to contend with rising gas and food prices and a slumping housing market, and there are signs that the job market is becoming a concern as well.

Recent weeks have brought a flurry of economic strain signals: Consumer spending rose by only 0.2 percent in December -- flat, factoring in inflation. The service sector contracted in January for the first time in about five years. Employers trimmed 17,000 jobs last month, the first such decline in more than four years.

If the job market continues to deteriorate, said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics, a research company in Swampsott, Mass., "all bets are off."

Gift-card holders go for the basics
Friday, February 08, 2008

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. provides a telling new gauge of the economy's direction: how tightly shoppers hang on to gift cards.

Recipients of millions of gift cards that stuffed stockings and greeting notes were supposed to buy certain special notions.

But in a show of angst, many card-holders have proved more pragmatic, according to Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer. They haven't rushed to spend with the accustomed haste. Instead of buying treasures such as iPods and DVDs, more have redeemed cards for basics such as detergent and diapers.

Merchants had hoped card-armed shoppers would provide a lift after a dismal holiday season. But that never happened.

Jill Panell of Sterling Heights, Mich., used a $20 Wal-Mart card this week to stock up on groceries and pet supplies. "Twenty dollars at Wal-Mart is easy to spend," she said.

Analysts think the same is happening in other stores, too.

"Gift cards are being used as a secondary way to save," said Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group.

Even at department stores, he said, consumers are using cards to buy basics such as socks.

Wal-Mart's take on card use shook up industry observers. Retailers record card revenue only as cards are redeemed.

"It shows you the level of worry," said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at International Council of Shopping Centers.

Shoppers appear to be looking at cards not as "free money" but as their "own personal cash," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, citing surveys.

They're also holding on to the cards longer, he said -- 15 percent of 1,000 consumers interviewed said they used cards in December, compared with 33 percent in 2006.

At a Wal-Mart in Cheektowaga, N.Y., near Buffalo, shopper LaShari Jackson, 37, said she was going for staples, not a splurge: "Can't afford it."

Oregon's indicators troubling
Friday, February 08, 2008

While the U.S. economy's slide has become clear lately, its future remains uncertain -- and sure to vary regionally.

Investors hope the Federal Reserve can avert a recession with a series of rate cuts, but some economists say the moves may be too little, too late.

Analysts also say that while the government's proposed stimulus package, which would send rebate checks to more than 100 million Americans, could help reignite spending, the lift would be temporary.

In Oregon, a monthly barometer of Oregon's near term managed to bump up slightly in December but still shows omens.

The University of Oregon's Index of Economic Indicators, released Thursday, increased .2 percent to 102.6.

"In total, this suggests sluggish economic activity with substantial risk of recession," wrote Tim Duy, the report's author.

Duy went out on a limb late last year to became the first economist in Oregon to publicly warn of recession.

Most concerning in the latest state reading, Duy said, was a continued increase in initial unemployment claims. December's weekly average of 8,059 claims equals levels last seen just before Oregon's 2001 downturn, he said. Nonfarm payroll growth also slowed.

Though home building permits held even in December, the fourth-quarter average was 27 percent down from 2006.

Yet, interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve should help mute the housing market slowdown, Duy said. And, manufacturing nationwide and trucking activity in Oregon remained strong in December.

1 comment:

Duncan McGeary said...

"I've never thought the rich are going to spend more money in my store
just because they're rich."

If a blue collar guy comes in and wants 50.00 worth of graphic novels, he'll buy them.

If a rich person comes in and wants 50.00 worth of graphic novels, that's what he'll buy. He won't suddenly go, gee, I'm rich, I'll buy 100.00 worth instead.

Occasionally, that happens, but rarely.

Both Linda and I have noticed, if anything, the opposite. Rich looking folk, well dressed, driving nice cars, are actually more likely to give you a hard time about your prices.

Yesterday, had a nicely coiffed and dressed lady bring a 15.00 trade paperback up to the counter.

I looked at the slightly curled cover and said, "How about 5.00."

She balked. Worse, she gave me the suspicious 'fish eye', which if you read my blog is one of my least favorite things.

Smiled wiped off my face, I say, "Regular price would've been 7.50."
I walked away, and refiled the book.

A couple of things. If the lady hadn't looked so well appointed, and if she had register disappointment at the price instead of suspicion, I would've immediately lowered the price. Hell, I might have given it to her, and said, pay me when you get a chance.

Secondly, history books are the absolute hardest types of books for us to find.

Third, the original trade value of that book was 3.75, so I was making a big 1.25 on the book.

Fourth, our policies are very clear, as anyone who has walked in my store will attest. "Used books are half cover price."