Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: A container in every port?


port1Check out the expected increase early next year in import cargo volume at U.S. retail container ports.

The numbers could rise year-over-year in February, for the first increase in more than two years, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and IHS Global Insight.

“This could be the turnaround we’ve been waiting to see for a long time,” NRF Vice President Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “There’s not enough data yet to establish a clear trend, but we’re hopeful that this is a sign of recovery.”

U.S. ports surveyed handled 1.14 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in September, the most-recent month for which actual numbers are available. That was down 3 percent from August and 16 percent from September 2008.

from Raw Japan:

Cheap treat keeps Japan sweet

JAPAN-SNACK/What is sticky, shaped like a fish and helps Japanese people shrug off the lingering effects of the country's worst recession since World War Two?

The economy is struggling but sales of a traditional, fish-shaped sweet snack are going along swimmingly, thanks to its low price and auspicious name.

Check Out Line: Which way is up with the U.S. economy?


Check out the mixed messages about the U.S. economy from the various consumer earnings.

Like any other earning day nowadays, it’s pick your poison on whether you want to focus on the good news or the bad news when it comes to whether the economy is improving.

Check Out Line: Frugal fatigue?


bootsplaid1Check out what women buy when they get tired of being a frugalista: boots, plaid and outerwear. 

Those were some of the products that helped October U.S. retail sales improve from a year ago, when the unfolding financial meltdown had shoppers fearing a second Great Depression.

Restaurants fight recession with wine


wineWine sales at restaurants and bars are falling as diners trade down to less expensive options or skip wine altogether to save a buck.  But some restaurants are cooking up contrarian strategies to squeeze sales from the vine.

California Pizza Kitchen took its wine list more upscale and wine sales followed.

Check Out Line: Holiday tips to take hit


haircut1Check out the probable lower level of tips for service providers during the holidays.Chalk up tips for cleaning people, school teachers, barbers, mail carriers and others as another probable victim of the weak U.S. economy, according to a new poll conducted by Consumer Reports magazine.  The magazine polled Americans about their tipping habits during the 2008 holidays and again in October and found 26 percent of Americans who usually tip or give a gift to a service provider said they would spend less this holiday season. Just 6 percent planed to spend more.”Families are looking for ways to balance their financial concerns with the need to thank people who have helped them during the year,” Tobie Stanger, senior editor at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “This year, tipping is more of a challenge than ever, but CR’s survey shows that people are still trying to do it, for the most part.”The average value of tips (i.e. some were gifts instead of cash or gift cards) varied by occupation, with a cleaning person at $50, a child’s teacher and a hairdresser at $20, and a manicurist at $10, according to Consumer Reports.Some readers told the magazine they plan to still say thanks with a card or homemade gift.Also in the basket:Food the focus as Wal-Mart starts holiday givingKraft quarterly results could make a case to CadburyADM profit soars past Wall Street estimatesPolo 2nd-qtr profit tops Street viewWalgreen October sales up a bit more than expectedEnergizer quarterly profit falls(Reuters photo)

The U.S. recession ends, but not for you


unclesambegsTalk about a disconnect.

Experts say U.S. economic growth has returned, signaling the end of the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression.

But the good news for Wall Street — where shares have been running up — is showing no signs of trickling down to Main Street, where unemployment is flirting with 10 percent, foreclosures continue to rise and record numbers of families now depend on government-issued food stamps to make ends meet.

Check Out Line: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…


tugofwar1Check out the tale of two cities in the retail world.

We are in the heart of the earnings season and every day brings reports that offer grist for both sides of the argument about whether the recovery has begun.

For the optimists, we have sports clothing and footwear maker Under Armour, which posted a stronger-than-expected quarter and raised its outlook, and yoga clothing and athletic gear maker Lululemon Athletica, which raised its forecast.

Liz picks Penney; Isaac takes TV


mizrahiJC Penney stores in the United States and Puerto Rico are going exclusive with Liz Claiborne Inc’s namesake brand and celebrity designer Isaac Mizrahi will sell his upscale Liz Claiborne New York line only on QVC, a TV shopping network.

The moves from Liz Claiborne were seen by some as a downward shift to mass-market retail channels and came as department store orders for Liz Claiborne’s products have fallen during what has become the longest recession since the Great Depression.

Check Out Line: September surprise for retailers


shop1Check out the unexpected increase in September same-store sales at U.S. retailers.

Providing hope that demand may be improving ahead of the holiday shopping season, retailers posted a surprise 0.6 percent increase last month in stores open at least a year, instead of the 1.1 percent decline analysts had expected.