Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Consumers cut back on discretionary drinks


Check Out Coca-Cola Enterprises feeling the pinch as cash-strapped consumers buy fewer soft drinks.

The world’s largest Coca-Cola bottler cut its full-year outlook on Thursday, even though third-quarter results met Wall Street’s view.

“Our performance remains below our expectations as we work through a combination of significant marketplace challenges, including a weakened North American economic environment, changing consumer purchasing patterns, and the impact of volatile fuel costs,” Chairman and Chief Executive John Brock said.

Brock said his company is working on its fundamental business review and would divulge details of that plan in December.  The bottler now expects to earn $1.25 to $1.29 per share this year, excluding items, down from a previous forecast of $1.40 to $1.45 per share.

Check Out Line: Mother Nature matters more than ever


rain2.jpgCheck out the cool and wet weather that hit U.S. retailers in September as the month will go into the books as the fifth coolest in the last seven years and much cooler than last year, according to Planalytics Inc, a business weather tracking company.

While the mean September temperature in the 96 largest U.S. metro areas fell about 4 points from last year to 64.2 degrees, retailers selling rainwear (demand up 29 percent based purely on weather), pants (up 13 percent), dehumidifiers (up 10 percent) and hot cereal (up 2 percent) benefited, Planalytics said.

Less fried frozen fish, more endless shrimp


shrimp.jpgFrozen seafood is never as tasty as fresh, a problem Red Lobster, whose menu hosts various fried frozen fish dishes, is trying to overcome.

Following a quarter of disappointing sales at its Red Lobster restaurant chain, Darden is trying to change the ”perception that the menu at Red Lobster is primarily comprised of frozen seafood prepared in a fried manner and not having a lot of interesting innovation, flavor profiles, culinary expertise,” said Darden’s CEO Clarence Otis on a call with analysts.

Check Out Line: Marlboro maker investing in smokeless tobacco


cigarette.jpgCheck Out Altria Group’s $10.4 billion offer to buy UST Inc.

While rumors of the deal were reported last week, Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, issued its official offer on Monday to buy UST, the largest U.S. smokeless tobacco maker, for $69.50 a share in cash plus $1.3 billion in debt on Monday.  

Buying UST, which also owns Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, would be a quick way for Altria to reach into the growing smokeless tobacco market, as it seeks ways to diversify from the declining U.S. cigarette market.

Check Out Line: Are you ready for some (more expensive) football?


Check out what it costs National Football League fans to attend games.

The latest NFL season got under way Thursday night as the defending Super Bowl giants.jpgchampion New York Giants opened their season with a win (pictured right). For their fans, there were some changes that affected their wallets.

The average ticket price to attend an NFL game rose almost 8 percent to $72.20, according to Team Marketing Report, a Chicago-area sports marketing firm. And if a family of four wants to take in a game played by the Giants, get ready to shell out almost $500 for tickets, beers, hot dogs and other items.

Bearish on handbags? Be that way, says Coach CEO


handbag.jpgSparks flew at an investor conference when a male retail analyst asked Coach Chief Executive Lew Frankfort a question that has confounded men for ages — how many handbags do women really need?Here’s the transcript from that exchange:Analyst: What is the pantry load or the handbag inventory of most women? And what happens to older handbags? Obviously women pay quite a lot of money for them. I’m just wondering how many they keep… I mean, can there be a significant detriment to sales in the future, just because there are a lot of handbags in women’s closets?Frankfort: Let me ask you, are there any women in your life that you might be able to ask how many handbags are too many? Most of us men in the audience know that women do spend, and we see it in all of our homes. In terms of how much is too much? It’s a theoretical question.We also have a very large segment of America who do not own Coach bags, and we continue to bring new consumers in to our franchise at a very attractive rate, and what women tend to do with bags is they retire the bags. They go to a place deep into the closet, and they purchase a new one, and that’s the reality.  I’m not sure where you are traveling with your questions.Analyst:  I’m traveling towards a consumer retrenchment and how people are going to retrench, and what their inventory of handbags may be for whenever the right occasion comes up. It’s — you know, we’re in uncharted (territory) here economically.Frankfort: Everything is uncharted. Everything is empirical, starting with this very moment. What you need to do is make calculated bets based on what you know, and what you think. And if you are bearish on handbags, be bearish.At that point, a female Coach executive cut in: I have never heard a man say, I am so sick of my black wallet, I need a red one. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard women say, I have to have this year’s red handbag.So it’s a perceived need for a woman …  I have to say something as the woman at the table.So, how many handbags (or wallets) do you have stashed away?(Photo: Reuters)

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.

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.

Frugal is the fashion in food shopping


grocery2.JPGIn a  bid to stretch shrinking grocery dollars, U.S. consumers are shunning restaurants for home-cooked meals, clipping coupons, scouring grocery store flyers for deals and consolidating trips to save gas.The U.S. Agriculture Department has warned that 2008 could bring the biggest increase in food prices in nearly 20 years. If shoppers’ words match their actions, it seems that frugal will become the new fashion.

Roughly 80 percent of respondents to a recent survey said they planned to continue those penny-pinching ways even after the economy turns up and they have more coins jingling in their pockets, according to retail consulting firm Precima, which commissioned the online survey that polled more than 2,000 U.S. consumers.

Check Out Line: More consumers see U.S. in recession


gasplane.jpgCheck out darkening consumer sentiment in the month of May.

According to the latest results of NPD’s Fast Checks Study: Consumers Speak Out On the U.S. Economy, in May, 58 percent of consumers said we are in a recession, up from 55 percent in April.

Respondents to the survey said they are planning to spend less on items like apparel and footwear. With vacation season getting underway, 49 percent of consumers said they plan to cut back on leisure travel.