Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: A smorgasbord of consumer earnings to parse


tide1Check out the smorgasbord of quarterly earnings in the consumer sector.

Among the many companies to report earnings on Thursday were P&G, Burger King, OfficeMax, Colgate,  Fortune Brands, Bunge, Kellogg, Safeway and Mead Johnson. As usual, there was something for investors of all stripes.

P&G, for example, posted a better-than-expected profit, helped by its biggest volume gain in more than four years. That would please the optimists.

The pessimists, however, had their news to focus on as the world’s largest household products company, known for its Tide detergent (pictured), also forecast results for the current quarter below Wall Street’s expectations. Go figure.

Burger King reported a smaller profit, blaming severe winter storms during the period for weaker sales in North America, and the CEO said warned that high levels of unemployment and underemployment remained the biggest headwind.

Check Out Line: A denim blast from the past


Check out who is still selling jeans.

It’s Gloria Vanderbilt! Not bad for an 80-something heiress.

Oh, wait, it’s the brand that’s selling, not the heiress herself.

Gloria Vanderbilt was one of the top performing brands at Jones Apparel Group as the company posted earnings that beat Wall Street expectations.

“Gloria Vanderbilt was one of the drivers along with l.e.i. doing better than we expected,” CEO Wes Card told Reuters’ Phil Wahba in an interview. “The strength in Gloria Vanderbilt really showed up in the margins because that’s the highest margin brand.”

Check Out Line: April showers bring strong earnings


coke1Check out the latest wave of strong quarterly earnings from the consumer world.

Under Armour, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Estee Lauder, Ford Motor, Energizer Holdings and Group 1 Automotive were among the consumer-focused companies reporting stronger-than-expected profits, supporting the view that a corner has been turned in the economy.

Athletic clothing and shoe maker Under Armour posted higher-than-expected quarterly profit fueled by strong apparel and online sales, and raised its earnings outlook for the full year. The largest bottler of Coke beverages, Coca-Cola Enterprises, with growth in European markets, did the same.

Check Out Line: Whirlpool profit hits happy note


whirlpool1Check out the blowout earnings by Whirlpool.

The maker of Maytag and KitchenAid appliances posted a quarterly profit that left analysts’ expectations in the dirt. Try $2.51 a share compared with Wall Street’s estimate for $1.33. People, when a company tops expectations to the tune of $1.18, that’s crazy.

The strong results, not surprisingly, prompted the world’s largest appliance maker to raise its full-year outlook as well as its forecast for 2010 U.S. industry shipments.

Rue La La eyes TJ Maxx more than Saks


HANDBAGA few weeks ago at an investor conference, Saks CEO Stephen Sadove admitted that some online sites like Rue La La and Gilt Groupe, which sell excessive inventory of luxury products at steep online discounts, were worthy competitors.

But an executive at GSI Commerce, which bought Rue La La last fall, says off-price chains like TJX have more to fear.

Check Out Line: Ackman out of Sears Canada


Check out Sears Holdings getting a bigger stake of Sears Canada. LAMPERT

Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman (below) is selling his stake in Sears Canada, about 17.3 percent of the company, to Sears Holdings, the U.S. based operator of Sears and Kmart that is controlled by another hedge fund manager, Edward Lampert (right).

If you’re scoring at home, that will give the U.S. Sears a 90.4 percent stake in the Canadian Sears.

Check Out Line: Would you like some wine with that weak economy?


wine1Check out the latest poll on affluent consumers’ spending habits.

Affluent consumers around the world may be worried about the economy, but they are still spending on items they value most: food, wine and dining out, according to a study released by HSBC Global Pulse.

Seventy-two percent of those polled said the amount of wine they drank had not changed in the past year, while 67 percent said their spending on wine was unchanged, HSBC said.

Check Out Line: McDonald’s picks up the U.S. sales pace


McDonald's flags

Check out the jump in U.S. sales at McDonald’s.

The fast-food chain posted a 4.2 percent jump in sales at comparable restaurants in March, almost triple the increase it saw in all of the first quarter.

Positive same-store sales have been an increasing rarity for McDonald’s in the United States as the company’s customers face high unemployment and as competitors have ratcheted up promotions.

Is KFC’s Double Down a double whammy?


KFC’s new, artery-choking Double Down sandwich is getting lots of media buzz — but is it helping the brand?

The breadless “sandwich” is just the latest in a long line of decadent dishes from fast-food chains. It features bacon, cheese and “the Colonel’s” special sauce sandwiched between two boneless grilled or fried chicken filets.  It’s a low-carb dream but a healthy eater’s nightmare as it is loaded with calories, salt and fat.

Check Out Line: A better house for tomorrow


renovate1Check out the renovations being planned by U.S. homeowners this year.

According to an American Express Spending & Saving Tracker poll, 62 percent of homeowners plan to tackle remodeling and renovation projects in 2010 to improve their home’s appearance and value (the top two motivators, respectively). However, many (53 percent) also believe a return to a seller’s market in real estate is not expected for two or more years.

Even with the soft housing market, 85 percent of homeowners consider their home as their most valuable asset and will spend an average of $6,200 to enhance it, according to the monthly study.