Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Mixed messages from retailers


Check out retailers’ profits and forecasts.

A discerning shopper, or investor for that matter, could browse the aisles of the retail financial world and come away with very different messages on the strength of the U.S. economy depending on which company’s results they chose.

default-2.jpgOn the plus side,  upscale jeweler Tiffany posted a better-than-expected profit and raised its full-year outlook, although that was driven by strong sales overseas. Tiffany expects U.S. same-store sales to return to growth in the fourth quarter. Shoe and hat retailer Genesco, and home-appliance and consumer-electronics retailer Conn’s also topped Wall Street’s views and boosted their forecasts.

For the pessimists out there, Williams-Sonoma saw its profit fall and it cut its forecast, while Sears Holdings also fell short of expectations amid the weak housing market.

Somewhere in the middle was discount store operator Fred’s, which reported a profit in line with what analysts were expecting.

Signet shines up listing for US investors


diamond-ring.jpgSoon, Signet will move its primary stock exchange listing to the New York Stock Exchange and may attract more investors to an already strong base. Signet who, you ask? They are known best as the operators of the Kay Jewelers chain and Jared The Galleria of Jewelry stores in the United States.

For Signet, sales trends in the United States are a bit different from those in the United Kingdom, according to the company. Predictably, U.S. sales peak around the year-end holidays, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, though British shoppers are not keen jewelry buyers for the latter two holidays . Also, U.S. consumers are more into buying anniversary jewelry and upgrading engagement rings throughout the year. In the UK? Not so much.

Thank you… come again


tiffany1.jpgNo, really. That is what Tiffany executives must think, looking at the sea of tourists at its fabled flagship store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

Eclipsing a 4-percent drop in same-store sales in its other stores, the New York store posted a 16-percent rise.

Check Out Line: Tiffany still sparkles overseas


tiffany.jpgCheck out how Tiffany sparkles overseas.
Forget the United States (where Tiffany does not expect sales to improve until later this year). They are still buying baubles in Europe.
Sales in Europe rose 30 percent in the first quarter. And that was on a CONSTANT CURRENCY basis. No help from the weak dollar in that number. The company added four more stores, which helped, as did the 12 percent increase in same store sales.
Asia also saw a 10 percent increase in sales on a constant currency basis.
The U.S. consumer may be under pressure. But apparently there are still sales and profits to be mined overseas.
Also in the basket:
April personal spending up, flat after inflation 
J Crew cuts year earnings outlook, shares drop 15 pct

NexCen cuts 25 pct of New York workforce, mulls options 

Coach’s gateway to growth in China (WWD)

(Photo: Reuters)

Check Out Line: Price cuts cutting Penney’s profits


default1.jpgCheck out the 50 percent drop in quarterly profit at JC Penney.

The mid-tier department store operator had warned in late March that its first-quarter profits would be hammered after a drop in store traffic and dismal Easter sales forced it to cut prices to clear out unsold merchandise.

Penney shoppers can expect more price cuts on future visits to the retailer. 

The department store operator said it is now trying to get inventory in its stores to better match the weak sales environment, meaning it will roll out more promotions and cut future merchandise orders.