Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: America’s still got to eat


Check out those popular fast-food chains.

The recession might force consumers to skip meals at pricey restaurants, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting chains like McDonald’s.

Global sales at McDonald’s restaurants open 13 months or more jumped 7.7 percent in November.  Same-store sales rose 4.5 percent in the United States, where bargain hunters enjoy the Dollar Menu.  In November 2007, U.S. same-store sales rose 4.4 percent.

Of course, not everything can be bought for a buck.  McDonald’s recently raised the price of the Double Cheeseburger to $1.19 and brought out a $1 sandwich called the McDouble with one less slice of cheese.

Meanwhile, Wendy’s/Arby’s got a boost from major shareholder Trian Partners.  After a strong response to its tender offer, Trian is poised to hold a 21.6 percent stake in the restaurant company, up from 11.1 percent.

McDonald’s, Visa offer money tips to burger-flippers


McDonald’s and credit card company Visa are extending a hand to employees to help them figure out their personal finances in a deepening recession. The two have launched a free online money management course for workers at the hamburger chain’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants.

“Now more than ever, it is crucial that people have the financial tools they need to spend responsibly and this collaborative effort is a critical part of addressing America’s financial illiteracy epidemic,” the companies said in a statement.

Check Out Line: Job cuts galore


Check out the disappearing jobs.
Job cuts in November soared to their highest monthly level since 1992, according to outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
A total of 181,671 job cuts were announced in the month, 61 percent more than in October, the firm said.
Employers have now announced 1,057,645 job cuts in 2008, just shy of the 1,072,054 layoffs announced in 2005, which was the last time that annual job cuts surpassed 1 million, Challenger said.
The financial sector was the biggest culprit, led by Citigroup’s plan to cut more than 50,000 jobs.
But job cuts are happening all over and retail lost another 11,000 jobs last month.
Things are also likely to get worse in the job market. December is typically one of the larger job-cutting months of the year, CEO John Challenger noted.
Also in the basket:
Crocs and Skechers settle patent suit
US retail tracker slashes holiday forecast
Shalom, Christmas Shoppers: Israelis Sell Cosmetics, Toys at the Mall (WSJ)
(Reuters photo)

U.S. in Recession since Dec. ’07


The National Bureau of Economic Research, a prestigious private institute that decides when the United States is in recession, says we’ve been in one since December last year.

The call from the NBER came as news to almost nobody in the United States, where unemployment is climbing, available credit is shrinking, consumer spending and confidence are lagging and home prices are falling off a cliff after a huge rise that enabled homeowners to use their property as a cash machine.

Costly Classical Christmas


Christmas is much more expensive this year. At least it is if you go the swans-a-swimming and geese-a-laying route.
PNC’s Christmas Price Index was up 8.1 percent this year, the second biggest leap in the 24-year history of the index, which is based on the holiday classic “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
The biggest culprit for the increase? Those darn seven swans-a-swimming, which will costs $5,600 this year, compared with $4,200 in 2007, PNC said.
PNC also puts out a core Christmas Price index, which excludes the highly volatile swan sector. That core CPI was up just 1.1 percent.
PNC CPI’s sources range from retailers to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and Philadanco, a modern dance company in Philadelphia.
Commodities prices, concerns about increased energy and shipping costs, jobs and a second straight minimum wage increase were major factors in the cost of the index, James Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management, said.
Prices for turtle doves, partridges and pear trees are also all up more than 30 percent, PNC said.
But if you want to save some money, see if your true love will let you get away with only the five golden rings — which are down 11.4 percent this year at $349.95.
Hey, there is a recession on, you know.

(Reuters photo)

An American Girl Christmas?


Los Angeles shoppers weren’t in much of a splurging mood, except when it came to buying dolls and doll clothes at American Girl. The Grove shopping center is home to one of six American Girl stores in the United States and parents said its dolls are on every girl’s wish list. Here’s what we captured on camera:








Recession Sells: Chicago’s dinosaurs


On Chicago’s State Street, I found these dinosaurs creeping up on a Christmas tree at the FAO Schwarz section inside Macy’s:

Moving on to an empty TV section in Sears:

At Sears, Christmas decorations were already 60 percent off:

And at Charlotte Russe, more discounts:

Shoppers’ High Anxiety


As we talk to more and more shoppers over the holiday weekend, the high level of personal anxiety over the future of the economy comes into focus. We have read, and written about, the numbers on consumer confidence and retail sales performance, but these quotes give us a more individual view. Below are some of the ways in which people described for reporters Aarthi Sivaraman and Ben Klayman their fears, or even a change in attitude, regarding money, jobs and family.

Jersey City, New Jersey:

Rose Fernandez, law enforcement worker:
“Yesterday I received my social security savings (statement) and looked at it. I’m concerned. I’m going to put more away. 
Rose said her extended family was only living according to their means and were careful not to spend anything extra. She recently came out of $6,000 in credit card debt herself.

Recession Sells: Brooklyn style


Every city has it’s way of dealing with recession. In Brooklyn, where “going out of business” sales may seem like a marketing tactic employed in good and bad times, it looks like shops are dead serious now. And they are getting more creative. We liked the VIP gift bag and the one-year deferred financing, photos via our own Martinne Geller:

Recession Sells: The Mall at Prince George’s


These Black Friday pictures were taken at the Mall at Prince George’s in Maryland by our Washington correspondent Diane Bartz. The parking lot was full, full, full and lots of shoppers walked into stores. But when they walked out, they weren’t carrying too many bags.
Check out the line of cars:


But what did you buy? Not much, apparently…