Retailers, consumers and prices
The department store operator also said same-store sales would improve during 2010 — it expects same-store sales to be flat in the first quarter and up in the “low-single digits” for the full fiscal year.
Like many retailers, Penney kept inventories tight to avoid having to slash prices to clear merchandise. That helped to boost its profits even as sales lagged.
Still, the company has underperformed several of its main competitors. Its same-store sales fell 3.8 percent in December and 4.6 percent in January, even as rivals such as Kohl’s and Nordstrom saw their sales shoot up. Penney has been hampered by a higher exposure to malls, where traffic has suffered particularly during the downturn.
Companies that cater to consumers are always chasing after the latest consumer technology trend (anyone remember Second Life?), and this holiday season that means following them into the world of social media.
Companies ranging from Wal-Mart and Panda Express to J.C. Penney and Target are experimenting with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Flickr. Some are tweeting special coupons or limited-time deals, while others are doling out fashion advice or providing play-by-plays from product launch parties on Facebook. M.A.C. said it is using its Facebook page to feature artists, color collections, and what is happening backstage at fashion shows.
Sears, the low-priced retailer known for its selection of Craftsman tools and kitchen appliances, is jumping on the beauty bandwagon.
The retailer is debuting beauty departments — called Sears Beauty — in 13 mall locations in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
Gary Severson, Wal-Mart U.S.’s senior vice president of home entertainment, told Reuters he thought the deal represented a “screaming value.”
Check out a government report showing that U.S. consumer spending rose 0.3 percent in May after an upwardly revised flat reading in April.
It was the first gain in spending since February, as government stimulus pushed incomes higher.
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)