Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Retail in recession: bottoms, bananas and breeding

So, what did we learn from executives in the hard-hit luxury and main street retail sectors this week at the Reuters summits?

The idea of a “new normal” age of lower consumerism was in vogue, with many executives expecting consumers to continue to be thrifty for some time. Conspicuous consumption may be dead, they say.

Heck, even Tiffany’s is attracting hagglers.

Even the Saks CEO is “Staycationing” in the downturn.

Of course, not everyone is cutting back, so Hermes still needs supplies of crocodile hides to make $35,000 handbags. The company’s solution? Breed its own.

The word “bottom” was also bandied about. Executives were hesitant to say the economy had definitely hit bottom. But many did see some leveling off. EBay CEO John Donahoe, for example, said he has seen some stabilization in demand, as did VF Corp CEO Eric Wiseman.

VMWare’s Diane Greene staying put

With one high-profile female Silicon Valley CEO swapping her executive office for a more political challenge, another — VMWare co-founder Diane Greene — says she’s sticking around.

I have built VMware. I am really excited about where we are going to be able to take this company and I am quite engaged in doing that. I am here for the foreseeable future.

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