Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Holiday wishes for a better economy

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Check out samsantaAmericans, fed up with financial doom, who are wishing for a cheerier economy in 2009.

The Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York, polled 1,003 Americans about their expectations for 2009 on December 9 and 10 — days after the National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed the United States had been mired in a recession since December 2007 — and found that Americans are optimistic that 2009 will be a better year.

Expectations for a brighter future were higher among younger generations, with 64 percent of those under 45 having an optimistic view compared with 52 percent for those 45 or older.

Meanwhile, the sentiment is decidedly sad.

Hefty job losses are contributing to year-end gloom in the United States, where consumer confidence hit a record low in December — a month that is traditionally marked by spending splurges on Christmas and other holiday gifts.

Check Out Line: Wealthy consumers feeling less confident

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buffet-bill.jpgCheck Out over 71 percent of affluent consumers, or 10 percent of American families, saying the U.S. real estate and banking crisis is affecting their sense of financial security and the value of their assets.

The poll, conducted by American Express Publishing and Harrison Group, says nearly 6 in 10 survey respondents are worried about running out of money, including 48 percent of America’s wealthiest families.  That’s up from 35 percent in April.  The survey was conducted Sept. 19-23 and included 614 people with a median income of $325,000.

Check Out Line: Jobs jolt

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clouds.jpgCheck out the loss of more retail jobs. 

Another 27,000 retail jobs disappeared in May, according to the U.S. government’s monthly employment report. That makes 152,000 retail jobs eliminated since the beginning of the year.
 
Overall, nonfarm payrolls fell by 49,000. But even more worrisome for the economy and for retailers could be the jump in the unemployment rate to 5.5 percent. That half-point jump was the largest such move in 22 years and brought the unemployment rate to its highest level in 3-1/2 years.
 
Retailer’s May sales reports yesterday were mostly better than expected, causing some analysts to think they could signal the beginning of a consumer turnaround.
 
But others said it just showed a blip in spending that was caused by the tax rebate checks consumers have begun to receive. 
 
Economic concerns could still linger after all that stimulus money is gone, they say, and things could get worse if consumers, already hit by $4-a-gallon gasoline, soaring food prices and falling home values really start to worry about their jobs.

Wonder how a half-point jump in the unemployment number plays into that?
 
Meanwhile, to take your mind of the jobs report, there’s always the company pep rally that masquerades as the Wal-Mart annual meeting. The world’s-largest retailer flies in employees from all around the world to help pack the basketball arena at the shopper1.jpgUniversity of Arkansas, where stars entertain the crowd (this year’s acts include Miley Cyrus), everybody does the Wal-Mart cheer, and, oh yeah, shareholders get to ask questions.
 
Also in the basket:
 
New Wal-Mart director may herald changing of the guard (Wall Street Journal, subscription required)
 
Target grows makeup artist brands, adds testers (WWD)

Check Out Line: U.S. consumers say “Waahhhh”

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jr.jpgCheck out the consumer confidence. Yep, didn’t think you could find it.

According to the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, consumer confidence fell to its lowest level in 26 years.

Twenty-six years ago, Ronald Reagan was president, the Berlin Wall was still standing, Olivia Newton-John topped the music charts with the single “Physical” (video here) and rich oilmen topped the TV ratings on “Dallas.”

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