Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Why retailers can expect modest holiday spending growth


As the 2012 race to the holidays kicks off, shoppers in America are experiencing economic sobriety.  With 23 million people still looking for work, home prices still down, and those with jobs holding little hope for salary increases, the season is shaping up as a time of controlled spending. Without question, consumer purchases will be made through a lens of affordability.

Still, in the past few weeks I have visited with small groups of shoppers in California, Phoenix, Dallas, New Orleans, northern Pennsylvania, and finally New York City; I found a consensus of hope as the holiday season approaches, and a feeling of thanks at having survived another tough year.

American consumers have grown tired of continuing signs of economic uncertainty. My conversations with American shoppers, as well as earlier consumer research by Booz & Company, indicated several changes that will set the stage for a holiday season that’s focused on affordability:

1. In almost all of our conversations we asked the following question “What will be different about this holiday season over past seasons?”  The overwhelming response was bringing together family and friends to celebrate.

Christie’s sets one wine record, blows another


Christie’s auction in Geneva on Tuesday claims to have set a world record price for a bottle of red Burgundy. A  U.S. buyer bought the 750 ml bottle of 1945 Romainee-Conti for $123,889.  But the house failed to sell its showcase lot of the auction — 315 bottles representing every vintage from ’45 to ’07 produced by each of the first five growths of Bordeaux.

Meanwhile in New York on Saturday, the star lot – a complete vertical of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild spanning ’45-’07 sold to an Asian collector for $150,000.

Arbitrage in Bordeaux


New York’s branch of Christie’s is auctioning a collection of 64 bottles of Mouton-Rothschild on Saturday that spans the years 1945-2007.  It’s Geneva branch is auctioning a collection of 315 bottles spanning the same 62 vintages, but from all five first growths including Mouton-Rothschild on Tuesday.  (See story “Mystery collector to sell rare wines” [ID: nN10231397])

Saturday’s lot is selling for between $100,000 and $150,000, while Tuesday’s is estimated to sell for $696,000 to $929,000. And the price difference presents collectors with an arbitrage opportunity.

Food Trucks: The Film


The fancy food truck revolution rocking the U.S. restaurant scene traces its roots beyond the 2008 launch of Kogi — the Korean-Mexican taco truck that took Los Angeles by storm and tweeted its way to international stardom — to a grittier, working-class movement.

In her bilingual documentary film “Masa Revolution”, veteran Los Angeles journalist Patricia Nazario maps the food truck industry back to the 1960s, when blue-collar entrepreneurs served plastic-wrapped sandwiches, doughnuts and coffee to factory and office workers across Southern California.

Jimmy John’s franchise fires union workers after sick-day campaign


The owners of 10 Minnesota Jimmy John’s sandwich shops — where a rare unionization vote was narrowly rejected last year – have fired six union organizers.

sickdayposter[1]The terminated workers are members of the Industrial Workers of the World, a formerly high-profile union better known as the Wobblies, and said they were fired after they put up 3,000 posters (shown here) around Minneapolis as part of a campaign to win paid sick days.

Root beer, roast beef, fish & chips: Who’s buying?


There’s a new batch of quick-service restaurants on the block – Arby’s, A&W and Long John Silver’s – and according to YouGov BrandIndex, A&W is the most popular of the three.

A&W, founded in 1919 and known for its root beer, had the trio’s highest satisfaction rates, said YouGov BrandIndex, which does daily consumer perception research on brands. 

from Leslie Gevirtz:

Sparkling wine — pouring style without draining your wallet

Earlier this week, I wrote about alternatives to non-vintage and cuvee Champagnes that can lend a festive atmosphere to any occasion. Below is a list of the wines that I mentioned, some alternatives and their suggested U.S. retail prices. Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut  $12 Santa Margherita Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Brut  $17 Freixenet Cordon Rosado $10 Domaine Tselepos Amalia Brut $24 Gruet $14 Dom Perignon $125-$150
Bollinger RD 1997 $130-$150 Krug Brut Grande Cuvee 1998 $180-$200 Giulio Ferrari 1997 $100

There are many other sparklers that didn't make it into the story such as:  Lucien Albrecht ($19), Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco ($19) and The Chook, a sparkling Shiraz from Australia ($17).

Starbucks, coffee shops see collateral benefit from Black Friday


STARBUXBlack Friday bargain hunting is a marathon, requiring a shopper to be alert and aggressive to outmaneuver rivals for that last $200 LCD TV at Target. But with so many retailers opening their doors at midnight, why bother going to sleep? Even if you shopped at Kohl’s, which opened at 3 am or J.C. Penney, at 4 am, you were in for very short night for most.

So bleary-eyed shoppers turned out in drove at U.S. malls on Friday, with lines at coffee shops among the longest.

Teens, men, self-love boost Black Friday


AEROPOSTALEAfter going AWOL for a couple of years, it sounds like men and teens are flexing their spending muscles this year and are helping retailers out this Black Friday.

“There seems to be a lot more men and a lot more younger consumers between the ages of 15 and 25,” said Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren in an interview. And it wasn’t just at Macy’s.

The eye in the sky forecasts holiday sales


park1By  Jon Lentz

When predicting holiday shopping traffic, it can help to take a bird’s eye view.
Or even better, take a peak from outer space.
That’s what Thomson Reuters analyst Jharonne Martis-Olivo did, using mall traffic data for the 10 weeks leading up to Black Friday gleaned from satellite images showing how crowded shopping mall parking lots were as a way to detect shopping patterns. The data from the images was provided by Remote Sensing Metrics.
Her conclusion? Mall traffic for November 2010 has recently shown a steep rise, pointing to stronger same-store sales.
The data include more than 500 satellite observations of car count from shopping malls across the country.
Mall parking lots were only 30 percent full in September of 2008, a period when same-store sales declined.
During September in 2009 and 2010, more cars were parked outside the malls, which correlated with an uptick in sales.
Other factors, such as how much a customer spends on a visit, also play a role. For example, prices were slashed in 2008 in November as retailers struggled through the worst financial crisis in decades.
But prices seem to be less of a factor this year, and November sales could be looking up. Different companies are taking different approaches to attracting holiday shoppers.

Source: Image of Southtown Shopping Center in Minnesota: (C) 2010 DigitalGlobe, Remote Sensing Metrics analysis.