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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Continuing The Comedy

Most of the time economic news articles are better and more factual than those in the general press. I guess it is a measure of the times that I keep running into stuff like this:
``Christmas is going to be weaker than last year,'' said Russell Jones, director of retail at consulting firm AlixPartners LLP. ``It doesn't look like retailers are doing anything that's exciting consumers and that tends to carry through to Christmas.''
I'll tell you what would bleeping excite consumers. What would excite consumers would be to have more money to spend. The Calculated Risk thread on retail sales is a good read. Target same store sales increased a meager 1.2% compared to the variously reported 1.4 to 1.5% for WalMart.

The bottom line is that increases for food and gas are quite understated in CPI, and since decreases in plasma TV costs do not profit the peasantry, and the peasantry spend a much higher portion of their incomes for the necessities of life, the peasants are having a pretty difficult time coming up with the pence to purchase hay for their used, dented Toyotas and grain for their own mush. Looking at Target sales, one would suspect that the peasantry is growing.

Overall, consumers are watching their dollars. No matter how you slice it, September was disappointing, although I doubt the weather is as much of a factor as some speculate:
Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers, estimated the weather depressed sales results by 0.5 percentage point.

The ICSC-UBS tally of retail sales rose a slim 1.7 percent in September, compared to 4.0 percent in the year-ago period and forecast for a 2.5 percent gain. Excluding the impact of the weather, the results were in line with a 2.3 percent spending pace seen since February, the start of the fiscal year for merchants.
If the weather is the controlling factor, then based on freight and port traffic the retailers appear to be forecasting unseasonable warmth right through December.

Here's a more interesting fact - Nordstrom had been bucking the slowdown in retailing for most of this year. That is because it is only unseasonably hot or cold for the peasantry, which causes them to remain huddled or panting in their subprime huts. The yeomanry only experience a little warmth or coolness, and thus voyage bravely out of their cottages to go shopping. However we seem to have broken through the yeomanry barrier this month:
"We are pleased to report positive same store sales during a month that appeared to be challenging for our industry. While we did experience positive same store sales growth, we did not achieve our plan. In addition, we entered the quarter with inventory levels above our plan and our below-plan sales performance put additional pressure on inventory levels. We are taking immediate action to bring inventory levels in line, which will negatively impact merchandise margins for the remainder of the year," commented Blake Nordstrom, President of Nordstrom, Inc.

The company's below plan sales performance combined with its higher inventory position will lower expected earnings. As a result, the company now expects to deliver third quarter earnings per share of $0.50 to $0.53, which is below its prior outlook of $0.61 to $0.64. Additionally, third quarter same-store sales are now expected to increase two to four percent, below the four to five percent range announced at the end of the second quarter.
This is the Nordstrom's progression:
Full-line Same-store sales:
September: 1.8%
Third qtr: 2.9%
YTD: 5.5%

Rack Stores (for the aspiring or thrifty yeomanry) Same-store sales:

September: 9.1%
Third qtr: 9.5%
YTD: 10.5%
Uh-oh. It's pure hell when those darned obstinate yeomen get fashionably thrifty. This falls in line with the Costco results. Costco is the equivalent of an uppercrust Sam's Club, and they were experiencing excellent increases earlier in the year. August was extremely disappointing, but they rebounded close to trend in September. April. June. August. September. My guess is that that 2 percent in August was related to back-to-school shopping in other venues but that now Costco customers have returned to their native habitat.

Well, what about the uppercrust?. It was firmly established earlier this year that weather has no relationship to the Ten Thousand, Indeed, judging by Neiman Marcus, the reason the weather was intimidating the peasantry so much was that the Ten Thousand had worked out a deal with Al Gore (their jets all fly at the same levels, you know, and they have these special engines that actually pull CO2 out of the air) to arrange for global warming and cooling to inflict itself upon the heads of the peasantry and spare the Ten Thousand. (Most certainly no one will propose jacking up taxes on jet fuel - no, it's the hay for those horses that's causing all the economic weather problems. If we just make hay a lot more expensive, that will solve all our problems!)

Neiman Marcus eked out a 6 percent gain on same store sales for September. Sales have been volatile at the high-end emporiums this year, but early in the year Neiman Marcus was racking up double digits. In June they only managed 8.5%. In May it was 6.6%. I predict they'll come back strong later in the year. Sometimes the shopping just gets tiring and you have to go off for a vacation.

How about the butlers for the Ten Thousand? Saks has been doing very well this year. So far same store sales in 2007 are up 13.3%, and in September they managed to gain 7.7%. They will not match May's 37.5% rise for same store sales again, I think, although they predict a strong November. In August, Saks managed an 18.2% gain in same store sales.

"If the weather is the controlling factor, then based on freight and port traffic the retailers appear to be forecasting unseasonable warmth right through December."

Brilllant! Absolutely!
Who says scholastic logic is passe?
It never was!

Even the higher animals appear to be logical. I think it is we humans who argue ourselves out of it.
ed in texas

Odds bodkins. I hear there's a sale on pitchforks down at Wal-Mart. Someone's liable to get a pokin'.
And the cry will go up "Your majesty, your majesty, the peasants are revolting!" To which HRH will reply "They certainly are disgusting!"
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