Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Shrinkage is shrinking


AUSTRALIA-ECONOMY/SPENDINGCheck out how shoplifting rates are easing amid economic signs of life.

As severe economic pressures subside, U.S. retailers are noticing a slight decrease in merchandise losses, a.k.a. ”shrinkage,” according to the National Retail Federation.  Preliminary results of the group’s latest survey show that shrinkage decreased to 1.44 percent of retail sales in 2009, down from 1.51 percent in 2008.

According to the survey, retailers lost $33.5 billion through lost merchandise last year, down from $36.5 billion in 2008.

“Retailers lose billions to shoplifting, internal theft and other types of criminal activity every year, so it’s encouraging to see these small successes when it comes to shrink rates,” said NRF senior asset protection advisor Joe La Rocca in a statement.

Employee theft was the biggest culprit last year, accounting for $14.4 billion in losses, or 43 percent of the total. Shoplifting accounted for 35 percent of the losses, or $11.7 billion, while administrative errors accounted for 14.5 percent and vendor fraud 3.8 percent.

Deals and discounts in vogue this Valentine’s Day


rosesAs procrastinators (or those who were too busy shoveling last weekend) head out to find a perfect last-minute gift, they may be happy to hear that less is expected this Valentine’s Day. 

Most consumers in romantic relationships don’t plan to spend much, if anything, on Valentine’s Day gifts, according to a new survey from Accenture. That backs up the findings from a National Retail Federation survey, which found that U.S. couples planned to spend 6 percent less on each other this year.

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


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.

Luxe CEOs bemoan encroachment of social media on privacy



No one wants it broadcast to the world when one is submitting to the indignities of airport security screening.

But that’s just what happened to luxury designer Tory Burch awhile back, when a fan tweeted to thousands that Burch was barefoot at the airport.  The upside, Burch said, was that the tweet and subsequent discussion gave her the idea to create a travel sock for women.

Check Out Line: Invasion of the robo-hamsters


Check out the Zhu Zhu Pet airlift of 2009. ZhuZhuworld

Wal-Mart is flying and trucking in hundreds of thousands of the robotic varmints to lure shoppers into the doors during the last days before Christmas.

The fake pets — which have presumably turned 1,00s of children into Zhu Zhu pests to their parents and grandparents — will be sold  starting at 7 a.m. on Dec. 21-Dec. 23, with stores each getting a limited amount.

Check Out Line: Shoppers to use more cash, less credit


card1Check out the expected higher use of cash and debit cards this holiday shopping season by debt-weary American consumers.

Credit cards are losing their appeal as 28.3 percent of U.S. shoppers said they plan to use that method of payment most often this holiday season, down from 31.5 percent last year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation and BIGresearch.

Check Out Line: Holiday doldrums?


RETAILTRAFFIC/Check out the latest retail forecast.

The National Retail Federation expects U.S. holiday sales to fall for the second consecutive year, but this year’s drop should not be as steep as it was last year.

The retail industry trade group expects retail sales in November and December combined to slip 1 percent to $437.6 billion.  Last year, such sales fell 3.4 percent to $441.97 billion.

Check Out Line: Want growth? Buy up.


Check Out retail strategy for growth.APPLE/EARNINGS

A list of the top 10 companies from a “Hot 100 Retailers list” compiled by Planet Retail for the National Retail Federation showed that while a few companies grew organically, most grew as a result of a merger or acquisition.

Topping the list of companies that grew through a deal was DineEquity,  which bought Applebee’s last year. 

Back-to-school spending “not as bad” but job fears weigh – survey


USA-RETAIL/Retail experts don’t expect this back-to-school season to be anything to write home about, as consumers continue to pare back expenses.
But a recent survey cited fewer people cutting back on back-to-school items than last year – 64 percent compared with 71 percent. 
“It’s going to be bad but it’s not going to be as bad,” said Stacy Janiak, vice chairman and U.S. retail leader for Deloitte LLP, which conducted the survey, speaking of spending during the season.
She pointed to data showing that 1 in 7 consumers — 14 percent — believe the economy is starting to recover.
“It was only 14 percent but it was 2 percent last year,” she said. “It’s not a lot for anyone to get optimistic about, by any stretch, but it’s a ray (of hope).”
“People have a sense that we’ve been through the worst of it,” Janiak said, noting that people seem to believe another big drop in the economy unlikely.
Still, the gloom this year is driven more by a desire to save, as well as worries over job losses.
“Last year what was driving people’s concern was these things that would eat into their wallet — higher gas and higher food prices, energy costs,” said Janiak. “This year it’s about what’s in the wallet to begin with — the loss of a job, or fear of that, or intensity on savings to keep what’s in your wallet.” 

Some 22 percent of survey respondents cited “loss of job in household” for their frugality, compared with 12 percent last year, and 17 percent cited “fear of loss of job” compared with 9 percent a year earlier.
In June, Deloitte found that the pace of decline in consumer spending appeared to be abating. Its consumer spending index, which tries to track consumer cash flow to point to future consumer spending, rose in June after falling four consecutive months. 
The U.S. jobless rate hit 9.5 percent last month, the highest in 26 years, and many economists expect it to hit 10 percent this year.
Last week, the National Retail Federation predicted the average U.S. family with kids in school through 12 grade would spend 7.7 percent less than last year, but college students and their families would spend 3 percent more. Nevertheless, overall college spending is expected to decline 4 percent to $30.08 billion due to fewer people planning on attending college this fall.

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.