Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Signs of brighter days ahead?

June 11, 2009

gaspumpCheck out hopeful signs that the recession may be abating.

While recent reports showed slumping sales at many big-box retailers, there are other signs that the economy may be bottoming.

U.S. retail sales rose in May and the number of workers who filed new applications for jobless benefits last week fell for the fourth straight week.

The Commerce Department today reported that U.S. retail sales rose 0.5 percent in May, thanks partly to gasoline sales that jumped 3.6 percent. Meanwhile, the Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell to their lowest levels since Jan. 24.

Discount retailer Target has increased its quarterly dividend, Clorox did the same while also affirming its 2010 profit outlook and financial targets for 2013, and Del Monte posted far stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings and provided a better-than-expected 2010 forecast.

Not all the news has been hopeful, however.

While last month’s U.S. foreclosure activity ebbed from April’s record high, homeowners were still struggling to keep up with house payments and May foreclosure filings were the third-highest on record.

Unemployment is at its highest level since July 1983. Some economists are talking about a “jobless recovery”, gas prices are rising and spiking mortgage rates are cooling demand for new home loans.

The weak economy has led to haggling in some unexpected places – namely  Tiffany – and forced other exclusive brands like Juicy Couture and Louis Vuitton to join the retail hoi polloi in trolling online for sales via Facebook and Twitter.

Also in the Basket:

Stimulus cash brings hope to poor U.S. youth

Jamba CEO eyes long-term growth, menu expansion

Lululemon posts lower profit, sees flat quarter

Look Who’s Shopping Goodwill (New York Times)

Restaurants Take Trip to Store (Wall Street Journal)

(Photo: Reuters)

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