Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: How Lowe’s can you go?


lowes1Check out the weaker-than-expected earnings at Lowe’s.

Giving fuel to pessimists about the U.S. economy, Lowe’s, the No. 2 home improvement chain behind Home Depot, posted a quarterly profit and sales that missed analysts’ expectations, and also forecast lackluster earnings in the current quarter, underscoring “limited visibility into near-term demand.”

Sales at companies like Lowe’s had benefited immensely from the homeowner tax credit and cash for appliances programs, but now more and more uncertainty seems to be the watchword.

Last week, retailer J.C. Penney forecast a full-year profit below Wall Street’s expectations, stoking fears it would need further discounts to clear out inventory. That was a day after department stores Kohl’s and Nordstrom gave conservative profit outlooks.

“We are taking a relatively conservative approach to the economic climate and especially the moderate consumer,” Chief Executive Myron Ullman said.

Check Out Line: Department stores ready to duke it out


JCPenneyCheck out department stores’ forecasts coming in below expectations as they try to gain market share.

On Friday, JC Penney became the latest chain to issue outlook that falls a little bit short of what Wall Street had already expected.

Check Out Line: Bargain hunters trolling the web


tgtCheck out consumers stepping up their online bargain hunting ahead of the holiday shopping rush.

According to Hitwise, searches for retailer promo codes rose 19 percent last week compared with 2008.

Latest back-to-school outlook brings little cheer


handCitigroup retail analysts held a call with the media to discuss their outlook for this year’s back-to-school season and, as we’ve been hearing, there are few bright spots on the horizon.

Deborah Weinswig, who covers retailers including Costco, Wal-Mart and Nordstrom, said Citi expects back-to-school same-store sales for those retailers to fall 3 percent to 4 percent.

“Twilight” Vampire Love For Sale at Retail


USA/Wannabe vampires can now suck up some “Twilight” love — ummm, read fashion — at department store Nordstrom. The retailer has announced a deal with Summit Entertainment for an exclusive clothing and jewelry collection inspired by the upcoming film “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”

“Twilight,” of course, is the smash hit movie romance ($382 million global box office) about a teenager (Bella Swan) and her forbidden love for a vampire (Edward Cullen) and all the blood-sucking complications that can bring. “New Moon” is its sequel, due in theaters this November.

Check Out Line: Penney pinching in Manhattan


Check Out J.C. Penney’s new store in Manhattan.

On July 31, J.C. Penney will open its first Manhattan store in the midtown area, promising to deliver trendy yet affordable items for New York’s notoriously savvy shoppers.

Penney is taking direct aim at rival Macy’s, whose flagship Herald Square store is a block away.

Check Out Line: Buying basics buoys big chains


Check out the ten largest U.S. retailers.

The National Retail Federation’s STORES magazine is out with its annual ranking of the top 100 retailers.

wal-mart-meat-shoppersThe list shows that U.S. consumers have been focused on bargains and basic necessities, such as food and medicine.  Wal-Mart tops the lineup, followed by Kroger and CostcoHome Depot fell from No. 2 in 2007 to the fourth spot in 2008 as many shoppers decided to cut back on costly home-improvement projects.

Check Out Line: The hurt is spreading


TARGET/Check out the latest sales reports, which show that consumers are still cutting back on discretionary spending as they shift to discounters for the basics.  Granted, that’s not exactly news anymore, but some of this morning’s sales tell us that even the discounters are starting to feel the heat.

“Sales for the month of May were somewhat below our expectations,” chief executive officer of Target, Greg Steinhafel, said in a statement.

Check Out Line: Apparel apathy endures


jcp By Nicole Maestri Check out the ongoing struggle to sell clothes to recession weary Americans.
J.C. Penney and Abercrombie & Fitch both reported quarterly results that show consumers are still cutting back on non-essential items, with Penney also warning profit for the year would be worse than analysts expected.
Consumers have been hammered by the recession, mounting job losses and credit worries, and it appears they are sticking to shopping lists for groceries and other essentials, rejecting unnecessary purchases and seeking deep discounts.
While the conviction to buy only what they need has hit sales for department stores like Penney, consumers’ desire for bargains has battered Abercrombie, which has stubbornly kept prices higher than rivals, other than discounting clearance items.
“With a challenging economic environment, the consumer continues to show a reluctance to spend on premium brands; a price consciousness dictating shopping habits unlike anything I have ever seen,” said Abercrombie Chief Executive Mike Jeffries, a retail industry veteran. The teen clothing retailer posted a first-quarter loss wider than Wall Street’s expectations, and in an abrupt change, said it is conducting a strategic review of its struggling Ruehl chain. Meanwhile, Penney posted an in-line quarterly profit, but forecast second-quarter and full year results below analysts’ expectations. “We expect consumer spending and mall traffic to remain weak, which will be particularly evident against tough comparisons in the second quarter,” CEO Mike Ullman said. Also in the basket: Kohl’s, Nordstrom beat forecasts, raise 2009 views H&M April sales rebound boosts recovery hopes Target pilot pays employees to monitor health (Photo: Reuters)

If only All Mankind would buy Premium Denim


Premium jeans are a chic — and profitable — addition to department stores when consumers flush with cash are willing to shell out over $200 per pair. But when the economy goes south, stores and shoppers start to balk.
On Tuesday, VF Corp, maker of 7 For All Mankind jeans, said that brand’s total business was down about 10 percent in the quarter, thanks to the weak U.S. wholesale environment.
“It is absolutely a piece of the market that has been most challenged in this economy and that is the more premium luxury sector,” Chief Executive Eric Wiseman told analysts in a call following the release of first-quarter results, which were lower than the year-ago quarter.
7 For All Mankind competes with a small group of premium brands including True Religion, which announces quarterly results in early May.
The brand is sold in specialty shops, some of which are shuttering their doors in the recession, and upper-tier department stores, including Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.
“You see their comps so you see how they’re struggling right now to get traffic into the store,” Wiseman said.
VF’s international jeans business, too, is struggling for a good fit with the global economy. 
The company, which makes Wrangler and Lee jeans sold around the world, said it was lowering its full-year earnings guidance in large part due to “a severe contraction” in the economies of Scandinavia and Eastern European countries, where jeans are apparently not at the top of the shopping list.