Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: A tale of two retailers

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EARNINGS/Check out Americans buying fewer books and searching for cheap chic.

Barnes & Noble said quarterly sales at its stores fell 4.8 percent and comparable sales on its web site fell 10.4 percent in the latest quarter.  Over at Ross Stores, sales rose 5 percent, as consumers scooped up bargain fashions.

Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio called 2008 “the most challenging year that the company and the industry have ever experienced” and added the company would continue to hold down expenses to cope.

Sales at the company’s namesake stores open at least a year fell 7.3 percent and things don’t seem to be picking up soon.  Barnes & Noble expects those sales to fall 6 percent to 9 percent this quarter.

On the other hand, here’s what Ross CEO Michael Balmuth had to say:  “We are very pleased with our solid earnings per share growth for both the fourth quarter and fiscal 2008.  Our results are especially noteworthy considering the extremely challenging macro-economic and retail environment that became increasingly difficult as the year progressed.”

Finding the humor in it all

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There are very few things to laugh about in the retail world at the moment, but JP Morgan analyst Brian Tunick did a great job of adding some humor to what was a difficult week, especially for Gymboree.

Gymboree gave a bleak forecast for its first quarter, saying regulatory changes related the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed by the Congress in August 2008 will impact sales and gross margins in the first half of 2009. The act required the Consumer Product Safety Commission to begin enforcement of new lead and phthalate standards for children’s products on Feb. 10, 2009.

Check Out Line: December sales slump

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Check Out the drop in sales.

It was no surprise that sales were weak in December, though some retailers stood out Thursday for their worse-than-expected performance.

WALMART/Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, said sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose just 1.7 percent, while analysts were expecting a 2.8 percent increase.  Wal-Mart and other chains such as Macy’s cut guidance for the fourth quarter ending later this month.
 
Shares of Wal-Mart fell more than 9 percent on Thursday morning, dragging the Dow Jones industrial average into negative territory as well.

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