Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Consumers beware! Rising prices even at Wal-Mart

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walmart1Check 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:

Wendy’s/Arby’s to expand into Russia

ScottsMiracle-Gro posts bigger Q3 profit

Fossil Q2 tops estimates; raises FY10 view

Hanesbrands to buy Gear For Sports for $55 mln

Lone Star’s BI-LO up for sale – source

(Reuters photo)

Check Out Line: Frugality — Part Two?

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shopCheck out the apparent return of the frugalista.

Worries about stubbornly high U.S. unemployment and a tempermental economic recovery has shoppers reeling in spending on all but the essentials.

The 28 retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters reported an overall 2.9 percent rise in July sales at stores open at least one year, missing Wall Street forecasts of 3.1 percent. Seventeen of those retailers reported lower-than-expected sales, while nine — including Macy’s and Kohl’s — beat estimates.

Panera’s pick-what-you-pay cafe holds its own

panera2Panera Bread’s hometown experiment in altruism appears to be working.

About eight weeks after opening Panera Cares — a nonprofit restaurant that invites customers to take what they need and pay what they can — executives say it appears to be on-track to covering its costs and becoming self-sufficient.

“It’s a fascinating test of humanity,” Panera Executive Chairman Ron Shaich told Reuters.

Check Out Line: Have a Coke and a confused looking grin

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Check out the confused American consumer. COCACOLAENTERPRISES/

Coca-Cola Co actually saw sales volume rise in North America in the second quarter, a rare feat.

Now imagine what would happen if U.S. consumers could actually figure out if they can afford to keep spending the money on a soda, what with high unemployment and the jittery stock market.

Check Out Line: Earnings to quench investors’ thirst

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pepsi1Check out the latest quarterly earnings for signs of a recovery.

Whirlpool and PepsiCo both reported better-than-expected quarterly profits and pointed to improving trends, lending hope to optimists that the economy is slowly improving.

While citing continuing macroeconomic challenges, PepsiCo, which makes Tropicana juice, Frito-Lay snacks and Quaker Oats in addition to its namesake cola,  posted stronger-than-expected results and affirmed its earnings per share growth target for the fiscal year.

Check Out Line: Summer job search advice for teens

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jobfair1Check out tough times for job-seeking teens.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said teens looking for a summer job will need to dedicate themselves full-time to the search, meaning getting a full-time job will be a full-time job. While many employers have filled summer positions, some may need more than expected while others delayed hiring until summer business conditions became clearer, Challenger CEO John Challenger said.

“The point is, you never know if or when a job opening is going to materialize, so you want to keep pushing,” he said in a statement.

As downturn takes toll, food bank volunteers become clients

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foodThe longest recession since the Great Depression has taken an exacting toll on Americans and their ability to put food on the table. Families who once considered themselves solidly middle class are now signing up for food stamps or turning to food banks to feed themselves in the face of lost jobs or cut wages.

“These are our neighbors, our friends, the people we go to church with,” said Margaret McKenna, president of the Walmart Foundation, of the number of Americans who are going hungry. “This is not like this is the other, people we don’t know. These are people we do know.”

from Blogs Dashboard:

Check Out Line: Jobs still hard to come by

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Check out the rise in the number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits.

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Hurt by layoffs in seasonal industries, the initial claims for state unemployment insurance rose 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 474,000 in the week ended Dec. 5 from 457,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said.

Check Out Line: Upset tummies in the food sector?

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mcd1Check out sluggish results in the U.S. food sector.

Fast food giant McDonald’s and Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery chain, saw shares decline 2.5 percent and 10 percent, respectively, after reporting weak results.

McDonald’s said same-store sales at its U.S. restaurants slipped 0.6 percent in November, marking the second straight monthly decline. Following Yum Brands’ recent weaker-than-expected sales, it was the latest sign that the fast-food sector that had performed well through most of the recession was weakening.

Check Out Line: Which way is up with the U.S. economy?

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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.

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