Retailers, consumers and prices
Check out rising prices even at Wal-Mart.
Pressures created by rising costs have caused even the world’s largest retailer, known for its ”rollback” discounts, to boost the prices that consumers pay for groceries.
Wal-Mart Stores raised average prices on supermarket items by about 6 percent in a month, according to a recent J.P. Morgan study in Virginia that compared the prices of 31-item goods sold at its supercenters, and at supermarket rivals Kroger, Safeway, Harris Teeter and Whole Foods.
Specifically, the study found that prices at a supercenter in Virginia rose 5.8 percent, the most significant sequential increase since JP Morgan started price comparisons in January 2009.
While the world’s largest retailer remains the cheapest among supermarkets, rivals such as Kroger and Safeway are gaining ground, according to J.P. Morgan.
Rising costs of raw materials and oil are pressuring companies to pass on costs to consumers with higher prices.
Indeed, clothes makers such as Nike, VF Corp and Hanesbrands are facing the same conundrum. And British baker Greggs said soaring wheat prices were set to push up costs, emphasizing a theme that may be repeated for such food makers as General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft and Sara Lee.
However, the timing is not good as the state of the U.S. economy is still uncertain and unemployment remains stubbornly high, leading many consumers to still be wary about spending. U.S. retailers in July posted weaker-than-expected sales despite increased discounting.
Also in the basket:
Check out the smorgasbord of quarterly earnings in the consumer sector.
Among the many companies to report earnings on Thursday were P&G, Burger King, OfficeMax, Colgate, Fortune Brands, Bunge, Kellogg, Safeway and Mead Johnson. As usual, there was something for investors of all stripes.
P&G, for example, posted a better-than-expected profit, helped by its biggest volume gain in more than four years. That would please the optimists.
While giving gift cards may have declined in popularity, some are proving quite attention-worthy and can be cashed in for a pretty penny. Online gift card site plasticjungle.com buys gift cards for cash, and then resells them, often for a bit less than the amount left on the card. It also lets people donate cards to charities.
So, what stores are hot this holiday season?
Here are the cards the site is paying the most for — up to 90 percent of the face value:
This year’s All Things Organic conference and expo showcased necessity as the mother of invention. Slumping sales and a weak economy have forced the industry to innovate just to hold onto customers.
In a 2009 briefing on the organic packaged food market, Euromonitor International said the largest threat to the future growth of organic products is price sensitivity among U.S. consumers in the current economic climate.
It is one of the oldest tricks in the book and a big problem for retailers. So big, in fact, that some estimates suggest that “sweethearting” and other types of employee theft account for almost half of all annual retail theft, or $19.5 billion out of $41.6 billion overall.
Around this time last year, stimulus checks amounting to more than $100 billion started landing in cash-strapped consumers’ bank accounts, giving them a chance to spend and boosting sales for many retailers.
But this year’s stimulus entails lower withholding taxes and not ”hard checks,” which means “the effects of this year’s stimulus on retailers will be a far cry from 2008,” Pali Capital analyst Stacey Widlitz said in a research note to clients.
Check out consumer-related companies Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, OfficeMax, Domino’s Pizza and Sally Beauty Holdings all posting better-than-expected quarterly profits despite weak consumer demand.
P&G and Colgate surprised Wall Street on Thursday, as their efforts to hike prices and cut costs helped offset weaker demand in the recession. Both companies, which are rolling out new products to entice thrifty consumers back to stores, forecast sales growth for the year, excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, acquisitions and divestitures.
If you want an answer to this question, you aren’t the only one.
Food companies like Kellogg Co, which makes the products mentioned above, say the higher prices are justified because while commodity price inflation has eased amid a global economic downturn, commodity prices remain well above historical averages.
Sears Holdings beat Wall Street expectations when it reported earnings this morning, helped by cost cuts, and the market sang its praises by sending shares up 8 percent. The streamlining isn’t over either, as the company controlled by Eddie Lampert announced plans to shutter another 24 stores.
We’re wondering about the exuberance of the market’s response, since the results still show marked same-store sales declines for the company’s Kmart and Sears, Roebuck stores and questions remain about whether the company can pull off a real turnaround in the future.
Wendy’s, the No. 3 U.S. hamburger chain behind McDonald’s Corp and Burger King Holdings Inc, sold itself on Thursday to the investment arm of billionaire investor Nelson Peltz in a deal valued at about $2.4 billion.