Posted tagged ‘Consumer’

Retail Sales in the US…Rise?

February 12, 2009

U.S. retail sales jumped 1 percent in January, reversing a six-month declining trend and defying economists’ expectations by posting the biggest increase in 14 months.

From the Associated Press:

The data are a glimmer of hope for a recession-hit economy, but higher gasoline prices and sales, and buyers snapping up other items on post-holiday discounts, appeared to aid last month’s results. Analysts cautioned that the relief is unlikely to last.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that January retail sales rose 1 percent from December after having fallen for six straight months. Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected January sales to show a drop of 0.8 percent. They plunged a revised lower 3 percent in December, which marked the weakest holiday selling season since at least 1969.

“This is a big surprise, though the net rise in sales is less impressive than it looks because (December and November) were revised down by 0.3 percent each,” Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research note. “The headline relief today is welcome but it is unlikely to last.”

The January report shows strong increases in sales of automobiles and in general merchandise stores — the “big box” outlets — though sales by department stores, carrying fewer varieties of items, posted a decline. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, is an example of a discounter that has benefited from strapped consumers’ focus on necessities like groceries and on bargains for other items.

Macy’s to Eliminate 7,000 Jobs

February 2, 2009

Macy’s announced Monday that it will cut 7,000 jobs and slash its dividend as the department store chain looks to lower expenses and preserve cash amid a severe pullback in consumer spending.

From the Associated Press:

Cincinnati-based Macy’s said the job cuts, which include some unfilled jobs, will come at offices, stores and other locations. The company currently employs about 180,000 people.

Macy’s had already announced last month that it would close 11 stores, affecting 960 employees, after retailers suffered through the worst holiday season in decades.

Macy’s said it expects the latest job cuts and other actions to lower its selling, general and administrative expenses by about $400 million annually starting in 2010.

The company also slashed its quarterly dividend to 5 cents from 13.25 cents. The dividend will be paid on April 1 to shareholders of record March 13.

Department stores have been especially hard-hit by the poor economy as shoppers turn to discount stores. Last month, department store chain Gottschalks Inc. put itself up for sale and said it had filed to reorganize in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Neiman Marcus Group Inc. said it was cutting about 375 jobs.

Macy’s also announced plans Monday to roll out its strategy to localize merchandising to specific markets on a national scale. It began testing the strategy in 20 regional markets last spring.

As part of the restructuring, the company will begin eliminating its Macy’s division structure and integrating all functions into a single organization. Macy’s central buying, merchandise planning, stores senior management and marketing functions will be located primarily in New York.

Obama To Broaden Financial Bailout

January 9, 2009

Barack Obama’s economic team is broadening the mission of the $700 billion bailout for the financial sector, aiming to unfreeze credit for homeowners, consumers, small businesses and local governments.

From the Associated Press:

The overhaul is aimed at the $350 billion remaining in the Troubled Asset Relief Program and comes amid mounting criticism from lawmakers and watchdogs that the Bush administration has administered the money in an inconsistent way and has not made banks accountable for the money.

The head of a congressional panel overseeing the $700 billion bailout program said Friday that lawmakers need to “take a very hard look” at how banks have used the money and she welcomed Obama’s attempts to better define the program’s mission.

Obama’s selection for Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, is developing a “comprehensive set of investment principles,” an Obama transition official said Friday. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been fleshed out, said the economic team will include measures to mitigate rising foreclosures and will place tougher conditions on financial institutions that receive the money, including limits on executive compensation.

With 11 days left before Obama is sworn in as the nation’s 44th president, the task of requesting Congress for access to the remaining funds will now likely fall on the new Obama administration.

Geithner is expected to face a confirmation hearing before the Senate next Thursday and he can count on being quizzed vigorously on his TARP proposals.

Though the Obama team is not offering any specifics, the mere fact that it is setting goals for the money won support from the head of a congressional panel that is charged with overseeing how the money is being spent.

“These are powerfully important initiatives,” said Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren. “I’m very pleased that the incoming administration is focused on these issues.”

She offered no specific advice on how to free up more credit. “It’s going to take a variety of tools,” she said. “They may have to move through multiple approaches.”

Retailers Worry Shoppers Are Getting Too Accustomed to Deals

January 7, 2009

With shoppers used to steep discounts and competition from liquidating businesses, retailers are worried that they’ll have to cut prices quickly on spring merchandise as well. Frankly, I wish prices would stay low, but I know that retailers are losing a lot of money offering the deals that they’ve had to offer.

From the Associated Press:

Shoppers are getting used to those 75 percent off sale signs, and that’s bad news for merchants who worry they will also have to quickly slash prices on spring goods to attract customers.

Anxieties about how rampant discounts have affected shoppers’ psyches and stores’ profits are running high ahead of expected dismal December sales figures on Thursday. The holiday season is anticipated to be the worst in decades.

Already, retailers including Bebe Stores Inc. and J.Crew Group Inc. are cutting prices on selected spring styles to lure sale-savvy shoppers.

“It is a vicious cycle that no one wants to continue,” said Gilbert Harrison, chairman of Financo Inc., an investment banking firm specializing in retailing. The discounts will be a key topic at Financo’s annual dinner on Monday for retail chief executives.

In addition, retailers expect competition from a rise in liquidation sales _ the fallout from the horrible holiday period.

Merchants struggling to clear out mounds of deeply discounted coats and sweaters are wondering how they are going to get nervous shoppers to splurge on new spring products.

KB Toys Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

December 12, 2008

KB Toys has filed for bankruptcy protection and plans to close its 277 mall-based stores and 114 outlets. In its Chapter 11 filings, the chain blamed “sudden and sharp decline in consumer sales due to macro-economic concerns.”

From the Associated Press:

In another sign of the grim holiday season, KB Toys filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time in four years on Thursday and plans to begin going-out-of business sales at its stores immediately.

The 86-year-old company said in a filing that its debt is “directly attributable to a sudden and sharp decline in consumer sales” because of the poor economy.

That a toy retailer filed for bankruptcy just before Christmas shows how bleak things have become, since such stores make up to half of their sales during the holidays. But analysts expect toy sales this holiday season to be flat or down slightly from last year’s total of $10.4 billion, according to market research firm NPD Group, because consumers are cutting back amid the recession.

In response, toy retailers, including KB Toys, amped up their discounts.

KB Toys had aggressively cut prices to entice cash-strapped shoppers, offering hundreds of toys for $10 or less. It also expanded its value program, which offers deals on new items each week, and offered “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” promotions.

But the deals weren’t enough. In the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, KB Toys said that between Oct. 5 and Dec. 8 sales in stores open at least one year, a key retail metric known as same-store sales, fell nearly 20 percent.

The company said it considered its alternatives and decided the most viable way to cover its debt was to begin liquidating its stores via immediate going-out-of-business sales. KB Toys also plans to sell its wholesale distribution business, according to the filing.

Jobless Claims Reach 26-Year High

December 11, 2008

The number of Americans filing new unemployment insurance claims jumped last week to a 26-year high, surpassing the number of filings economists had predicted.

From CNN Money:

The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial filings for state jobless benefits surged to 573,000 for the week ended Dec. 6. That was an increase of 58,000 from a revised 515,000 claims in the previous week.

It was the highest number of jobless claims since Nov. 27, 1982 when initial filings hit 612,000. Economists were expecting jobless claims increase to 525,000, according to a consensus compiled by Briefing.com.

The four-week moving average of jobless claims, which works to eliminate fluctuations in data was 540,500 last week, an increase of 14,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 526,250.

One economist said the number of initial claims decreased in the previous report because the data from that report represented the week of Thanksgiving. Some of the surge in initial filings in this current report could be a bounce from that week.

However, “the underlying trend in the labor market is that it continues to weaken,” said Jay Bryson, global economist with Wachovia Economics, and that is evident in the 4-week moving averages of initial claims.

The number of people continuing to collect unemployment rose to 4,429,000 in the week ended Nov. 29, the most recent week available, which was also a 26-year high. The measure was an increase of 338,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 4,091,000.

Office Depot to Cut Over 2,000 Jobs

December 10, 2008

Office Depot has said that it will close about 9 percent of its North American stores and cut 2,200 jobs over the next three months while planning to open fewer locations next year in an effort to cut costs.

From the Associated Press:

The plan to shutter 112 stores will reduce the chain’s base to 1,163. It plans to close 45 stores in the Central U.S., 40 in the Northeast and Canada, 19 in the West and eight in the South.

Office Depot, which began the year with about 49,000 workers, also will close six of its 33 North American distribution facilities.

Meanwhile, the Delray Beach, Fla.-based company said it plans to shut another 14 stores next year while opening just 20 new sites, half of what it planned.

Analysts said the move was needed and will likely give the company a much-needed short-term financial boost. But they said they doubted the effort would be enough to fix the company’s financial condition.

“It’s not enough to really close the gap and make a meaningful impact compared to Staples and the mass merchant competitors,” said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy. “But it’s probably a Band-Aid on a flesh wound.”


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