Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Department stores ready to duke it out

May 14, 2010

JCPenneyCheck out department stores’ forecasts coming in below expectations as they try to gain market share.

On Friday, JC Penney became the latest chain to issue outlook that falls a little bit short of what Wall Street had already expected.

Thursday we saw mid-priced chain Kohl’s and upscale department store operator Nordstrom issue their own modest expectations.

Wait, wasn’t March a great month?  Weren’t shoppers coming back?  What gives?  Let’s take a look at what the executives had to say.

“We know that our customers remain concerned about their budgets,” but like new, trendy merchandise at “compelling prices,” JCPenney Chairman and CEO Myron “Mike” Ullman III said in a statement.

Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell told analysts “we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.” He also told Reuters: “Demand in the categories in which we operate is flat or down over the last couple of years. Therefore, the successful retailers are going to have take business from others.”

Now it looks like chains are revving up to do their best to grow at the expense of rivals as consumers keep close tabs on their spending.

Don’t forget, Macy’s also stuck to its expectations earlier this week, which were a bit below analysts’ average forecast. That company said it would be premature to raise its outlook just yet “given the macro-economic uncertainty.”

Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren suggested that sales growth would have to come at the expense of other chains.

“While the direction of the overall economy remains unclear, we believe we are well-positioned to continue to gain market share,” he said.

Or, as rival Ullman put it, “the balance of 2010 will be an exciting time for JCPenney as we focus on expanding our market share and delivering long-term growth.”

Stay tuned.

Also in the basket:

INTERVIEW-Ackman says Borders not “out of the woods”

Retail sales rise 0.4 percent in April

P&G sued over Pampers Dry Max diapers

(Reuters photo)

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