Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday Retail News & Notes

Tuesday Retail & Consumer Reading List:
  • Naughty in Name Only: Nasty Gal is Fastest Growing Retailer You've Never Heard Of (NY Times)
  • How next-generation apps will market your brainwaves (Slate)
  • Store Charges Customers $5 'Just Looking' Fee To Combat Showrooming (Business Insider)
  • Joe Fresh Boosts J.C. Penney...But Will It Last? (Knowledge@Wharton)
  • Consumers Will Keep Spending as U.S. Hurdles Fade (Bloomberg)
  • Sears rolls out the 'Fulfilled by Sears' program for other retailers (Internet Retailer)
  • The New Big Box Investment Criteria: What Real Estate Investors Need to Know About Multichannel Retail (NREI)
  • New Balance 3D prints the perfect shoe for athletes (SmartPlanet)
  • Early Adopter Millennials Leading in Mobile Device Adoption (MarketingProfs)
  • The Trader Joe's Lesson: How to Pay a Living Wage and Still Make Money in Retail (The Atlantic)
  • Video: Uniqlo Aims for World Domination (CBS News)
  • PayPal leads the pack for mobile wallet awareness (Mobile Commerce Daily) and Wall Street worries about PayPal's offline expansion (Reuters)
  • Customers Flee Wal-Mart Empty Shelves for Target, Costco (Businessweek)
  • The Best Sales Associate for a Retail Brand? Educated... Not Trained (Forbes)

Tuesday Retail & Consumer Roundup:
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index declined sharply in March to 59.7, down 12.2% from February and 14.1% below the year-ago level. The Present Situation Index dropped 5.7% from the prior month but still sits 16.0% above last March, while the Expectations Index declined 15.9% from February and is a hefty 26.2% below last year.
Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, said "Consumer Confidence fell sharply in March, following February’s uptick. This month’s retreat was driven primarily by a sharp decline in expectations, although consumers were also more pessimistic in their assessment of current conditions. The loss of confidence, particularly expectations, mirrors the losses experienced this past December and January. The recent sequester has created uncertainty regarding the economic outlook and as a result, consumers are less confident."

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) reported that chain store sales fell 1.7% for the week ending Mar 23rd compared to the prior week, while year-on-year sales grew only 1.0%, which was the weakest showing in more than 3 years.

According to the ICSC‐GS consumer tracking survey, business weakened over the past week at department stores, apparel‐specialty stores, discounters and wholesale clubs, but was stronger at drug, dollar, office and furniture stores.
"An abnormally cold bout of weather in the eastern two-thirds of the country brought a chill to consumers and their interest in spring goods--especially apparel," said ICSC Chief Economist Michael Niemira.
Indeed - Weather Trends International (WTI) noted that the average nationwide temperature during this past week was 15.2°F colder than last year and 4.5°F below its long-term average. WTI observed that "Temperatures were 20‐to‐40°F colder than last year … across the East. Temperatures for the United States, as a whole, were the third coldest in more than 22 years for the third week of the retail March. Adding insult to injury, it was. . .the snowiest third week of March in nine years."

ShopperTrak, which won't report weekly sales until later today, noted last week that business should pick up as consumers go on spring break and ahead of the Easter holiday. However, the company expects the overall March-April period to be weaker than expected due to the unseasonably cool weather, especially against last year's very warm early start to spring.

Redbook Research said same-store sales rose 2.6% in the third week of March following a 2.9% gain the prior week. Month-to-date, sales were up 2.8% over the prior year and 0.6% relative to February.

Redbook expects same-store sales to post a 3.3% gain for the full month compared to last March. The company notes there will be an upward bias to March results due to Easter falling 2 weeks earlier this year compared to last year.
Easter based buying became evident across a broad range of merchandise categories from food to toys and footwear. There was a good spurt in demand for spring apparel, especially swimwear, as a lot of people are getting ready for spring break and a vacation in a warm place. Sales levels are expected to rise into the Easter weekend during the coming week.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that gas prices fell for the fourth consecutive week to $3.68 for the week ending 3/25, down 1.6 cents from the prior week and 10.4 cents from the February peak - prices at the pump are 6.1% below levels a year ago. AAA said that the national average has fallen for five consecutive days and 22 of 26 days, and expects prices to fall further in the coming months.

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