Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Warning, slow recovery ahead


homedepot1Check out signs that a slow recovery is in the offing.

Retail executives see only gray skies ahead as U.S. shoppers are still spending cautiously, giving weight to the notion that a recovery will remain weak beyond 2010.

“The economic backdrop is not optimal,” Ken Perkins, president of retail research firm Retail Metrics, told Reuters. “It’s not catastrophic like it was in 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, but it’s just very sluggish.”

Indeed, Wal-Mart Stores posted its fifth consecutive quarterly drop in U.S. same-store sales (sales at stores that were open for at least a year) and said that trend may not reverse itself in the current quarter, Home Depot cut its full-year sales view and Kohl’s, which caters to middle-income consumers, and BJ’s Wholesale cut their profit forecasts.

“The landscape hasn’t changed, and you can make the case that perhaps it has worsened,” Kohl’s Chief Executive Kevin Mansell told Reuters last week.

Check Out Line: June jobs data disappoint


USA/Check out the latest batch of grim data about the U.S. job market.

U.S. employment fell for the first time this year in June, renewing concerns about the strength of the U.S. economic recovery.

Weaker-than-expected private hiring and the end of thousands of temporary census jobs translated into a decline of 125,000 nonfarm payrolls, their largest fall since last October.

from Dhanya Skariachan:

Check Out Line: A mixed bag of consumer news

Mixed bag

Check out

a mixed bag of results from the consumer world.

Investors looking for yet another clue to gauge the strength of the U.S. consumer spending recovery might find some solace in online retailer Overstock's results and women's apparel retailer Ann Taylor's strong first-quarter outlook.

Overstock, which sells excess inventories of clothing, accessories, furniture and other items, recorded a 42 percent rise in quarterly sales, while Ann Taylor forecast a same-store sales rise of 11 percent in its latest first quarter.

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: 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.

from MacroScope:

Housing “W”hipsaw looms

After months of cheerier data, the housing market is set for another tumble, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, California. The consultants, who provide advice for builders, developers and banks, are calling for a "W"-shaped recovery, marked first by the plunge that Americans living off of home equity would rather forget.

America has breathed a sigh of relief since April, as the summer selling season kicked in and the $8,000 first-time homebuyer credit nudged consumers off the fence into the most affordable market in years. These factors, along with easy financing from the Federal Housing Administration, was the first leg up for the "W," said Lisa Marquis Jackson, a vice president at John Burns.

The onset of the weaker selling months, a building pipeline of foreclosures and expiration of the tax-credit on Nov. 30 will likely bring rising prices upturn to a halt, creating a "false peak" and fresh downturn, the group says. Federal efforts have slowed foreclosures but have not addressed many issues including unemployment and underwater mortgages, leaving a heavy "shadow inventory" set to knock prices to fresh lows.