Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Sales weakness? It’s a gas

May 28, 2008

gas.jpgCheck out sluggish sales and high gasoline prices.
According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, chain-store sales were flat in the week ending May 24, compared with a week earlier, and were up only 1.5 percent year-over-year.
“Consumers remain cautious in their discretionary spending as a result of the record high gasoline prices,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC chief economist.
Gas costs cutting into consumer discretionary spending isn’t a new thought. But ICSC takes a stab at quantifying the effect, estimating that current gas prices — well over $4 a gallon in some places — are cutting demand at chain stores by nearly 1 percentage point.
Niemira also said a consumer tax rebate tracking survey is showing a “low propensity” to spend the recent tax rebate checks. That stimulus package might not be so stimulating.
Some retailers have been able to manage through the weakness. American Eagle Outfitters, for example, used cost-cutting and inventory reductions to post better-than-expected first quarter profit on Wednesday.
Others have have had more difficulty. Chico’s posted a sharp drop in quarterly profit, the latest example of weakness in  the women’s apparel sector.
Also in the basket:
Lululemon’s incoming CEO advocates measured mantra (WWD)
Polo Ralph Lauren profit tops view; shares jump
Dollar Tree profit rises more than 14 percent
Coca-Cola Enterprises sees 2nd-qtr profit down
For Coors Light, a Night Out That Begins on MySpace (N.Y. Times)

 (Photo: Reuters)

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