Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Best deals for restaurant meals


olivegarden1When it comes to getting the most bang for a buck at sit-down restaurants, Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel, Golden Corral, Applebee’s and Chili’s get top marks, according to 5,000 diners recently polled online by BrandIndex.

Brands with the worst perceived value were Ground Round, Benihana, Bahama Breeze, Landry’s Seafood House and Hooter’s.

Sit-down restaurants have been discounting heavily as consumers cook more meals at home and “trade down” to lower-priced fast-food chains to save money amid a long recession that has sent U.S. unemployment to a 26-year high.

BrandIndex is owned by market research company YouGov.

Here is the full list of results:

(A score can range from 100 to -100 and is compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.)

Check Out Line: Lower discretionary spending at drugstores


walgreen1Check out June same-store sales at drugstore chains.

Walgreen Co and Rite Aid both reported sales at stores open at least a year, pointing to shoppers filling more prescriptions but buying less discretionary summer merchandise. Walgreen said same-store sales in June rose 3.4 percent, while smaller rival Rite Aid saw sales slip 0.6 percent.

Economists and analysts had previously pointed to signs the recession may be nearing an end, but the news is still mixed as the number of jobs cut in June was higher than expected and the unemployment rate rose to 9.5 percent.

from Global Investing:

Financial crisis helps Berlin take root for fashionistas

Berlin is slowly but surely establishing itself as one of the top global catwalks for the bold and the beautiful of the world of high fashion -- and the global financial crisis seems to be doing nothing to slow it down.


For the fifth time, up-and-coming fashion designers are meeting in the German capital to present selections from their latest collections at the Berlin Fashion Week, which is attracting increasing interest from the international fashion scene.

Check Out Line: Retail joy in sunny days?


shop11Check out the welcome warm weather.

The long anticipated arrival of warm weather helped boost U.S. consumer spending 1.6 percent in the week that ended June 27, from a week ago – the strongest gain since matching its Jan. 31 results, according to a stody by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs.

On a year-over-year basis, sales rose 0.6 percent.

“A bout of seasonally hot weather late in the week helped to trigger consumer spending,” ICSC chief economist Michael Niemira said in a statement. “This late June sales spark was a welcome sign for the industry and the economy. ”
However, he added, ”for the month as a whole, June sales continue on track for a ‘tough’ month with the early part of the month weighing heavy on its performance.”
Excluding Wal-Mart Stores, which has stopped reporting monthly sales, the ICSC expects June sales to be down by about 5 percent.

Heading to the dollar store for groceries?


dollar1Ahead of the recession, dollar stores thought it would be a good idea to try to lure shoppers into their stores more frequently by stocking an increased selection of food. Many of them began installing refrigerated coolers in their stores so they could sell things like eggs, milk and dairy.

More recently Family Dollar added 200 more food products — including a bigger selection of pasta and Kraft salad dressings — to its shelves.

Check Out Line: Stuck with the bling…


BERKSHIRE/Check Out who’s holding the most and least inventory these days.Jewelry retailers are now holding their merchandise the longest among retail peers, according to a study by financial analysis firm Sageworks. In the last 12 months, jewelry retailers have held inventory for 102 days — 19 days longer than they did in 2006 and the same as in 2008. The sector has been among the top sufferers in the recession, with consumers shying away from jewelry to save money, while retailers resort to discounts and promotions to sell off merchandise.”The longer it takes for inventory to turn, the more serious the implications are on cash flow and profits,” the study noted. Lawn and garden equipment stores took the No. 2  spot, holding inventory for 14 days more while beer, wine and liquor stores  and building materials retailers were third and fourth on the list, holding merchandise for 12 and eight days more than they did in 2006 respectively.The surprise factor? Auto parts and tire stores came in last in the list holding their merchandise for four fewer days than in 2006. Why, you ask? “Likely because people are repairing what they already own as opposed to buying new,” the study said. That’s more bad news for car sellers.Also in the basket:Nike orders disappoint, shares fallH&M profit beats forecast Downwardly mobile: Living on less in the city (WSJ - susbscription needed)(Photo/Reuters)

Disappearing restaurant deals?


olivegardenWhether it is “value menus,”  Applebee’s two dinners for $20 deal or Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s “Summer Classic” three-course meal for $39.95, restaurant operators long have been depending on specials to woo customers during a long recession that has driven unemployment to a 26-year high.

Now, one high-profile restaurant executive says he has seen some rivals’ deep discounts disappear over the last few weeks.

Check Out Line: Frugality still in, but less so now


food1Check out the lower level of planned frugality among consumers.

While 52 percent of consumers making less than $35,000 plan to cut back on dining out, that is down from the 72 percent who had such plans last fall, according to a survey by Information Resources Inc.

IRI found most consumers plan to spend less on summer vacations, cook at home more and eat out less often.

Check Out Line: Green shoots or false signals?


shop1Check out green shoots of optimism regarding consumer confidence.

While job losses still weigh heavily on the minds of cash-strapped Americans, U.S. consumer confidence rose to a nine-month high in June, the third consecutive month it had reached a new high, a survey showed today.

The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its preliminary index of confidence for June rose to 69.0 from May’s 68.7. Economists had expected 69.5, while last September the score was 70.3.

from Summit Notebook:

Retail in recession: bottoms, bananas and breeding

So, what did we learn from executives in the hard-hit luxury and main street retail sectors this week at the Reuters summits?

The idea of a "new normal" age of lower consumerism was in vogue, with many executives expecting consumers to continue to be thrifty for some time. Conspicuous consumption may be dead, they say.