Retailers, consumers and prices
Check out the weak euro’s latest victim.
McDonald’s reported better-than-expected global sales in May at stores open at least 13 months, but warned that full-year profits would be hit by unfavorable currency exchange rates, specifically calling out the euro.
The No. 1 hamburger chain gets about one quarter of its operating income from the euro zone, and that region will result in foreign exchange rates hurting the full-year profit instead of being slightly positive as it previously forecast. However, the company said that issue would not affect second-quarter results and the European stores posted far stronger-than-expected May sales, so the real impact of the weak euro is still to come.
It’s been a mixed bag of late for McDonald’s, which recently recalled at least 13.4 million “Shrek”-themed drinking glasses in the United States and Canada due to the presence of toxic metal cadmium in the designs.
Euro worries don’t just apply to McDonald’s. Rival Burger King on Monday warned that unfavorable exchange rates, primarily related to the euro, would reduce the profit in the current quarter by 1 to 2 cents a share.
Check out the challenges before the luxury sector:
Many fancy European companies like Valentino have widened their entry-level offerings to lure more shoppers, given how edgy the global economy remains. This could be shortsighted, experts said this week at the Reuters Global Luxury Summit in Paris, New York, Dubai and London.
For instance, Valentino’s 300 euro T-shirts are dubbed “Couture T-shirts” a term some in the industry view as an oxymoron and could harm the cachet so essential to luxury’s appeal.
Wal-Mart management and about 1,200 workers from around the globe gathered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, for a spirited, pre-shareholder meeting pep rally.
Their message? “We are merchants!”
The employees, who are tasked with helping to grow company sales, reiterated that point multiple times.
From our apparel correspondent Nivedita Bhattacharjee:
Financo’s president Bill Susman identified an unlikely rival that could hamper retail sales all over the world in the coming months – the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
As if jittery financial markets, oil spills and debt crises are not enough, retailers will soon have to fight the World Cup to entice customers, many of whom will be esconced in front of their TV sets as the most popular soccer tournament kicks off later this month.
With the luxury of hindsight, Saks Chief Executive Stephen Sadove said he wouldn't hesitate to repeat the big markdowns of the 2008 holiday season if faced with the same tough environment that made the retailer the poster child of recessionary sales.
"It was the right thing to do to generate the cash," Sadove said at the Reuters Global Luxury Summit in New York.
Check out the cautious notes being sounded in the global luxury market.
Industry executives voiced concerns about everything from unemployment to Europe’s brewing economic crisis, but are nonetheless banking on growth from China and a recovering U.S. market.
Leading officials speaking at the Reuters Global Luxury Summit said the debt crisis in Europe is threatening to halt luxury’s rebound, but demand for fine merchandise was picking up in the United States while China’s shoppers were venturing frequently into Tokyo for top brands.
Coach’s Lew Frankfort has given up trying to teach American men about fashion, but he still sees opportunity for expanding sales to a male clientele.
“I believe the American male is largely uneducable,” Coach Chairman and CEO Frankfort said at the Reuters Global Luxury Summit in New York.
“We need to focus on the segment of males that have real discerning taste. But I can also say that even the undiscerning American male is a smart consumer: that person is looking for a product that is durable, that is classic, that can stand the test of time and that’s what our products do,” Frankfort said.
Sales of Coach’s man-bags, wallets and other accessories represent 5 percent of its total take, and that is one area where the company is trying to build growth. At a test store for men only, on Bleecker Street in Manhattan, it has seen sales results run at about triple its own expectations, Frankfort said.
“There’s a lot of appetite among the discerning male for quality accessories made out of excellent materials that are stylish. … In North America, the male consumer remains heavily utilitarian-driven, replacement-oriented, value-based. There are discerning males in Boise, Idaho. I don’t mean to suggest there aren’t.”
(Photo of Frankfort/Reuters)
Bashful New York bargain hunters may finally be able to guard their modesty at one of the city’s biggest annual retail events, as luxury chain Barney’s is considering adding dressing rooms at its mobbed New York warehouse sale.
While well-educated and well-heeled professionals don’t think twice about unleashing their animal instincts to grab the best designer merchandise at 75 percent off, many are reticent about stripping down in public to make sure they have the right size before ringing up a final sale.
From our apparel reporter Nivedita Bhattacharjee:
Luxury brands in the United States might still have a lot to learn from the entrenched design houses in Europe, but their commitment to pleasing the customer serves them well as the market returns from recession.
Milton Pedraza, Chief Executive of the Luxury Institute, told us during the Reuters Global Luxury Summit today that the commitment to customer service could even become a real point of differentiation for American brands.
“The American brands and even the Burberrys of the world tend to be better at customer-centricity, at service, and could make that a competitive advantage, because the Europeans are not as service-oriented, more product-oriented,” he said.
“The Europeans are not as service-oriented, (they are) more product-oriented, and they will even tell you that.”
If one is looking for an explanation behind the attitudes, Pedraza invoked a time well before Hermes opened its doors in 1837.
“A French executive told me that the word ‘service’ … is equated with servility and (goes) back to the French revolution and is why the French don’t like to serve anybody.”
Check out what executives at luxury retailers around the world are saying about consumer demand.
Early feedback from the Reuters Global Luxury Summit, which gathered top executives from Asia, Europe and the United States, sounds positive. Some executives even predicted that the sector will rebound this year after suffering during the weak economy.