Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Let them eat steak


meatTired of paying high prices for everything from soup to cereal? See your butcher.

While food makers like Kellogg and Campbell Soup have yet to take back price hikes on boxes of cereal and cans of soup spurred by last year’s spike in commodity costs, beef companies have to move their premium, perishable product in a environment where restaurants aren’t buying and consumers are pinching pennies. 

“You are seeing some of the best value in grocery stores for steaks than what you have seen in
an awfully long time,” Gregg Doud, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s chief economist said at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago.

“You are seeing a lot of features for rib-eyes and T-bones at below $5 a pound. That is some of the best featuring we have seen in many many years,” Doud said.

from Summit Notebook:

Recession? Not at Reckitt, really

The recession has hit U.S. consumers, yet Reckitt Benckiser has not felt as much of a pinch.  The maker of Lysol disinfectants and Air Wick air fresheners said shoppers did not shy away from its products even as the overall household products industry felt the impact of pantry destocking, or consumers using up what they had at home rather than buying more products.
Rob De Groot, head of the group's North America and Australia region, told the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago that he did not see a massive consumer destocking.  Click here to hear his comments

De Groot expects Reckitt's U.S. market share to rise this year, even as the overall market remains flat.

Check Out Line: Anyone bidding on an overhaul at eBay?


ebayCheck out the transformation eBay, the Internet’s premier auction website, hopes to pull off.

Trying to ease fears its best days are in the rearview mirror, eBay is counting on growth at its PayPal payments system and jump-starting its lagging core business.

Retaining the “new” Wal-Mart Moms


In the first two months of this year, Wal-Mart increased its share of the U.S. retail market by more than a full share point compared with same time a year ago, according to a new study from retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. (Read about their strong February sales results.) 

In January and February Wal-Mart’s U.S. business rang up $44.64 billion of sales — representing 9.7 percent of total estimated U.S. retail sales, excluding auto/food services. That is up from last year, when its January and February U.S. sales were $42.02 billion, or 8.6 percent of total U.S. sales, according to CGP.

Hansen selling beauty in a can



By Shivani Singh

Hansen Natural, the maker of Monster energy drinks and caffeine-free sodas, is betting that woman will splurge on its new ”Self Beauty Elixir.”

As the stress of rising unemployment and falling home prices take their toll, the drink maker believes that members of the fairer sex will seek refuge in the 35-calorie drink that comes in exotic flavors like Blushing Berry, Pink Lemonade and Tropical Bliss.

Check Out Line: Sit tight. They’ll bring the bad news to you.


Check out J.C. Penney trying to save people money. JCPENNEY/
Not shoppers mind you — but bankers.

The company has canceled its annual analyst meeting at its headquarters in Plano, Texas. Seems the recession has hurt many firms’ travel budgets.
But not to worry — J.C. Penney will come to New York to meet with analysts instead! 
Of course, the story Penney has to tell isn’t the greatest one right now. Profit fell 51 percent in the key fourth quarter, and the company expects a deeper loss in the first quarter than Wall Street expected.
But at least the analysts get to stay home (well, the ones based in New York) and Penney executives get out of Plano!
Also in the basket:
Lowe’s posts sharp drop in profit
As U.S. downturn deepens, repair business thrives
Crop scientists say biotechnology seed companies are thwarting research (N.Y. Times)

How to survive a recession: tips from young designers

At New York’s semi-annual fashion week, Nicholas Kunz, who designs the Nicholas K line with her brother Christopher, gave some tips on how to weather a tough market:

Another designer at Fashion Week, Thuy Diep, who designs the line Thuy, said her company has trimmed their overhead by buying fabrics in New York this year instead of making the trip to Paris. She has also made it a point to make fewer rough drafts of her designs in order to save money. And even smaller details have not been overlooked for cost-cutting potential– Thuy said she is taking the subway instead of cabs, for example.

Fashion’s recession from New York to Milan and back

Backstage at the Miss Sixty show at NY’s fashion week, Italian label Miss Sixty’s head designer and co-founder Wichy Hassan speaks about the effects of the recession on the show and the possible future price of garments at the label’s stores.

From New York and Milan — where the label hails from — he says the industry is feeling the pinch.

Check Out Line: Taxes up, cigarette shipments down


SWITZERLAND/Check out the falling shipments of cigarettes with expectations of further declines in 2009.

Reynolds American posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit as its Camel and Pall Mall cigarettes increased market share. But the company said it shipped 21.6 billion cigarettes in the fourth quarter — down 6.3 percent from a year earlier.

Creating a to-do list for Wal-Mart’s new CEO


dukeThis Saturday, Lee Scott will retire as CEO of Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, and Mike Duke will step in to the CEO shoes on Sunday.

Since the management change was announced in November, ShopTalk is fairly certain that Duke has come up with a pretty long list of things to do in his first few months as CEO.