Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Shopping? No thanks

March 17, 2009

USA-HOLIDAYSALES/Check out a persistent weakness in consumer attitudes.

On a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 is “very confident,” general economic perception of consumers fell to 36.7 in February from 38 in October, according to a survey by retail research firm NPD Group. The survey uses online answers from 1,000 people each month.

On the heels of worries over the economy, consumers’ intentions to shop also weakened. NPD’s study showed a more than five-point drop to 35.4 in February, compared to 40.7 in October.

“While a five-point drop doesn’t seem like much, it represents millions of dollars,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD.

U.S. consumers have held back on shopping in the past months as they contend with weak home values, tight access to credit and the fear of job losses in a recession.

But not all is lost.

NPD did note that although consumers’ confidence about the economy was fading, their worries about job security were leveling off. While the number of consumers most concerned about job security peaked in December at 38 percent from 33 percent in October, it fell to 34 percent in February.

“I think it’s premature to talk ‘recovery,’ ” Cohen said. “I think if we are able to spot signs of stabilization, we’ll be better positioned for recovery and then the return to growth.”

* From the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit 2009, watch out for speakers including Sara Lee Corp CEO Brenda Barnes, Joe Sanderson, CEO of Sanderson Farms and CEO of Feeding America Vicki Escarra.

Also in the basket:

Commodities down but food prices lag

Wal-Mart revamping Great Value

Ackman’s Pershing nominates 5 to Target board

Coke expected to get OK for China Huiyuan deal


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