Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Whirlpool profit hits happy note

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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.

The company had been hurt by the sluggish economy and weak housing market in North America — its largest market — but increasing demand for energy-efficient products and a federal stimulus program are luring shoppers back.

Not to be outdone, cigarette maker Lorillard posted a stronger-than-expected profit, helped by higher volumes and market share gains as U.S. smokers chose less expensive brands.

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

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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: A better house for tomorrow

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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.

Check Out Line: Clouds lift ever more slightly on consumer confidence

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SHOPPERSCheck out more signs of improving consumer confidence.

According to a study released this week by Discover Financial Services U.S. consumers were getting more comfortable with their budgets.  Also, slightly more consumers now believe they’d have money leftover after paying their bills to have fun with, hinting that consumers won’t be scrimping and saving quite as much.

“After months of cutbacks, we’ve seen two months in a row now in which consumer spending intentions appear to have stabilized,” said Julie Loeger, senior vice president of brand and product management for Discover, in explaining the findings.

Check Out Line: Magic 8 ball says better year for retail

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shop1Check out a prediction for increased U.S. retail sales this year.

The National Retail Federation said U.S. retail sales should rise 2.5 percent this year, signaling that stores have made it through the worst of the downturn as improvements in the housing and job markets bolster shoppers’ confidence.

The projected increase would be a step up from a 2.5 percent decline last year and 1.3 percent increase in 2008, NRF said.

Check Out Line: Honey, OK if I buy this $300 gadget?

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money1Check out how the recession has redefined what “major purchase” means to American consumers.

Three times the number of consumers said “yes” compared with “no” when asked if they need to discuss a purchase of $250 to $300 with their spouse or partner to determine if they can afford it, according to a survey by BeemerReport.com. It was the first time “yes” topped “no” at that price level.

Check Out Line: Upset tummies in the food sector?

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mcd1Check out sluggish results in the U.S. food sector.

Fast food giant McDonald’s and Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery chain, saw shares decline 2.5 percent and 10 percent, respectively, after reporting weak results.

McDonald’s said same-store sales at its U.S. restaurants slipped 0.6 percent in November, marking the second straight monthly decline. Following Yum Brands’ recent weaker-than-expected sales, it was the latest sign that the fast-food sector that had performed well through most of the recession was weakening.

Check Out Line: Clink, clink! Wine consumption to rise

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wine1Check out all the wine drinking going on.

Two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans surveyed said they partake in wine on holidays and special occasions while at home, while another 58 percent drink wine at home with dinner on an ordinary night, according to consumer trend tracker Mintel.

The wine market has grown 20 percent from 2004 through 2009 despite the recession, but at the peak of the slowdown in 2008 it declined 3.2 percent, Mintel said. With consumers slowly feeling better about the economy, the firm expects the wine market to increase by 2.1 percent this year.

Check Out Line: Warning! Murky outlook ahead for retailers

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shop11Check out the latest outlook on October sales at U.S. retailers.

While most industry experts expect a 1.2 percent rise thanks to the weather gods and easy comparisons, the forecast doesn’t really say it all.

For instance, while sales trends have improved from a disastrous October 2008, data on the economy and consumer spending gives mixed signals and indicates shoppers remain cautious.

Check Out Line: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

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tugofwar1Check out the tale of two cities in the retail world.

We are in the heart of the earnings season and every day brings reports that offer grist for both sides of the argument about whether the recovery has begun.

For the optimists, we have sports clothing and footwear maker Under Armour, which posted a stronger-than-expected quarter and raised its outlook, and yoga clothing and athletic gear maker Lululemon Athletica, which raised its forecast.

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