Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: More dark clouds in retailing


sale1Check out more bad news in the retail sector.

U.S. retail sales slumped for the second straight month, coming in weaker than analysts had expected due to sluggish gasoline and electronic goods purchases. Meanwhile, U.S. foreclosure activity in April jumped to a record high, further pressuring home prices and making a recovery tougher.

Fashion company Liz Claiborne posted a deeper-than-expected quarterly loss as retail sales remained weak in the recession. The owner of Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Lucky Brand and Mexx labels is cutting jobs, scaling back expansion and offering more lower priced items to combat the slowdown.

Meanwhile, General Growth chose a company to provide its bankruptcy financing. The No. 2 U.S. mall owner filed for bankruptcy in April when it could not refinance its maturing loans due to tightness in the credit markets.

Even overseas, retailers in emerging economies are opening special shops for the poor as the recession squeezes the fledgling middle classes.

Check Out Line: 7 things consumers still spend on


dentist1Check out the list of things consumers are still spending money on during the recession.

Auto repairs, home repairs and going to the dentist are among the seven areas consumers are still spending their money even as consumers worry about their jobs, according to Sageworks.

Check Out Line: Slurping up strong sales at McDonald’s


CHINA-MCDONALDS/Check out those sales rising at fast-food giant McDonald’s.

The burger chain said its April sales at restaurants open at least 13 months rose 6.9 percent rise in April. In the U.S. alone, April same-store sales increased 6.1 percent, helped by new coffee drinks and chicken snack wraps.

Fast-food restaurants have generally held up better in the recession than higher-priced sit-down restaurants. 

Starbucks strikes back


sbuxbewareStarbucks wants you to know that it is not the home of $4 coffee, and it’s launching a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to make sure you get the message that its brew is not an expensive luxury.

“Starbucks coffee does not cost $4,” Chief Executive Howard Schultz said this week when he announced the new ad blitz. The ad at left will run on Sunday in the New York Times.

Check Out Line: Jones Apparel tries on strong profits for size


jeans1Check out the strong profits Jones Apparel Group tried on in its latest quarter.

The owner of the Jones New York, Nine West and Anne Klein brands easily outperformed analysts’ expectations in the first quarter thanks to cost cutting and rising demand in its wholesale jeans business.

Check Out Line: Whirlpool posts profit ?!?!


whr1Check out the surprise quarterly profit at Whirlpool.

The world’s biggest appliance maker, known for its namesake, Maytag and KitchenAid brands,  was aided in the unexpected good news — analysts were expecting a loss — by its cost-cutting efforts. The company has frozen salaries, reduced its contribution to retirement plans and taken other steps to save money amid the recession.

Despite the profit, sales tumbled 23 percent in the first quarter. Whirlpool also said it now expects 2009 industry unit shipments in the United States and Europe to decline more than previously expected.

Check Out Line: Recession? Not at


AMAZON-KINDLE/Check out the sales surge at Amazon.

The online retailer beat Wall Street expectations for quarterly earnings and revenue as lowered prices lured more shoppers online. It also benefited as sales of its Kindle electronic reader gained momentum.

The company increased revenue an unexpectedly strong 18 percent as cash-strapped consumers went shopping online, and Amazon’s own discount shipping program spurred purchases. 

Penney for your discretionary dollars


Deciding where to spend the remainder, if any, of this month’s paycheck?

JCPENNEY/J.C. Penney is making its case for why you should be heading to its stores.

At the department store chain’s annual analyst meeting in New York, Penney discussed the steps it is taking to win consumers’ hearts (and their money).

One of the steps highlighted: A chance for its rewards program customers to meet country music band Rascal Flatts, which recently topped U.S. pop album charts with its album called “Unstoppable.”

Check Out Line: Value is still in


mcd1Check out the consumer thriftiness still reflected in corporate announcements.

McDonald’s, the world’s largest hamburger chain, posted a higher quarterly profit that beat analysts’ expectations.

It also said April same-store sales were trending at least as strong or better than first-quarter sales in every part of the world.

Vitamins, cheaper meat, infant clothes big recession sellers


USA-HOLIDAYSALES/Mike Duke, the newly installed CEO of Wal-Mart, has been watching the recession play out in the cash register at his stores.

In an interview on the Today Show, Duke took Matt Lauer on a walk through a Walmart store, and talked about how he is seeing his shoppers navigate the downturn.