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December 24, 2009


Our Financial’s sector head, Josh Steiner, pointed out an interesting item to put on the calendar for early next year.  With substantial changes coming in the area of credit card regulation, there is sure to be a growing interest in how this may impact consumers and retailers alike.

On February 22, 2010 new credit card laws become effective. One of the provisions of the new law will require that consumers “opt-in” to be charged over-limit fees. You might ask why would anyone do that? The rationale is that if you don’t, you will be denied at the point of purchase (if that particular purchase is in danger of putting  you over-limit).

Considering this is a universal program, meaning every credit card in America will be affected, and close to zero people will have opted in (this requires reading the fine print!), there may be an abnormally high rate of point of purchase declines on Monday February 22, 2010 and the week thereafter. Now, maybe consumers will instead use cash or another card, but on the margin there will probably be a sizeable block of people who just walk away. The potential impact may not be enough to skew February sales, but it’s probably worth noting.  At the very least this may be a new “excuse” retailers will use to explain away weak sales.   

And of course, Happy Holidays from the Retail Team!  


  • In 2010, 40% of Finish Line’s store base will be up for renewal or renegotiation. With such a substantial percentage of the store base up for repositioning or potential lease concessions, the opportunity for SG&A reductions should continue for some time. Management also remains focused on downsizing opportunities in effort to shrink some larger format stores that are no longer meeting productivity hurdles.
  • First it was Gucci, now it’s Marc Jacobs and Balenciaga. The latter two brands have recently been spotted at DSW in Manhattan. While luxury will never be a key strategy for the off-price shoe retailer, the benefits of a weak economy to the value-based consumer continue to show.
  • After highlighting that the state of Minnesota had its first snow free November in 46 years, it appears that I may have jinxed The Land of 10,000 Lakes. Current weather forecasts for Minnesota are now calling for Christmas to be the snowiest in 30 years! How quickly sales of boots, shovels, and down coats can change…


As snow falls, online sales rise 13% over the last weekend before Christmas - Online retailers can easily spot the silver lining in the huge snowstorm that blanketed must of the eastern portion of the nation last weekend: sales shot up 13% compared to the final weekend before Christmas last year, reports web measurement firm comScore Inc. That helped boost online retail sales to a 6% gain for the week that ended Sunday, Dec. 20, and eclipsing the record for the biggest single week in e-retail history, a record set just two weeks ago, according to comScore. “The major snowstorms hitting the Eastern seaboard over the weekend appear to have given holiday e-commerce an additional boost, resulting in the heaviest online spending week on record at $4.8 billion,” says comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “Consumers have clearly continued to spend online later into the season this year, with several very strong spending days in the most recent week including the heaviest online spending day in history—Tuesday, Dec. 15 with $913 million. Retailers have been very aggressive with late season promotions while informing consumers that they could still get their purchases shipped in time for Christmas, and these tactics seem to be paying off.” Sales for the week ended Dec. 20 totaled $4.803 billion, compared with $4.532 billion during the comparable week last year. Weekend sales came in at $767 million, up 13% from $677 million last year, comScore say. For the first 50 days of the holiday season—Nov. 1-Dec. 20—comScore says online sales total $25.524 billion, up 4% from $24.550 billion during the comparable period last year. <internetretailer.com>

Small web retailers expect better times ahead in 2010 - A year ago the worst recession in decades wreaked havoc on holiday sales for many small web retailers. This Christmas more merchants say business has improved, and they forecast better conditions in 2010. As the holiday shopping season winds down, the small web merchants that survived 2009 can likely anticipate better business conditions in 2010, says Paula Rosenbloom, managing partner at Retail Systems Research LLC. “Many small web retailers are happy just to have survived and to do that they had to provide excellent customer service and offer their customers extremely competitive pricing,” she says. “This year was a make or break year for a lot of small online retailers and if they made it to the holiday season, they’re probably in good shape for 2010. Congratulations to the survivors.” <internetretailer.com>

Import cargo volume at retail container ports expected to grow in early 2010 which will be the first growth in over 2 years - Import cargo volume at major U.S. retail container ports is expected to increase year-over-year for the first time in more than two years during the early months of 2010, according to a Port Tracker report released Tuesday. January volume will show a continued decline, but the downward trend is likely to break in February with three consecutive months of increases, said the National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight, which coauthored the report. In October, U.S. ports surveyed by Port Tracker handled 1.2 million 20-foot equivalent units. October container traffic was 4% higher than September, but was still down 14% compared with a year earlier. Port Tracker surveyed ports, including Los Angeles-Long Beach, New York-New Jersey and Houston. <wwd.com>

U.S. retailers used extra promotions and extended hours to draw procrastinators and shoppers delayed by the East Coast snowstorm in the final stretch before Christmas - Target Corp. extended its hours to midnight Dec. 21 through yesterday. Borders Group Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Toys “R” Us Inc. also kept stores open longer. Best Buy Co. offered some DVDs for half off and Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., a men’s clothing chain, deepened discounts to at least 50%. “We didn’t intend to do everything, and now we’re doing everything,” Jos. A. Bank Chief Executive Officer Neal Black said Dec. 22. “We’ll be slugging right down to the last minute.” Sales will be compressed into the final days before Christmas, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group Inc. The snowstorm disrupted the Saturday before Dec. 25. Last year, that was the second-biggest shopping day after Black Friday, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving. Shoppers already had procrastinated more than in recent seasons. The Washington-based National Retail Federation was holding to its forecast for a 1% drop in holiday sales. The International Council of Shopping Centers reiterated on Dec. 22 its forecast for a 2% increase in sales at stores open at least a year in December, after reporting that the storm slowed growth to 0.4% year over year in the week ended Dec. 19. Jos. A. Bank cut prices of all clothing Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, after store visits slowed, Black said. The chain had planned to offer some of that merchandise at 40% and 30% off.  <bloomberg.com>

Consumer survey from Market Force Information say Kohl's and Target are the consumer's No. 1 and No. 2 favorite fashion accessory retailers - The findings emerged from a survey Market Force conducted among it network of 300,000 independent mystery shoppers and merchandisers. The shoppers were shown a list of the country's top 55 retailers (top fashion retailers according to Hoovers) and asked to select their favorite. Wal-Mart received the highest number of votes, with consumers citing low prices as the primary reason. Initially, this put Wal-Mart at the top of the list with 16% of the votes, followed by Kohl's with 12%, and Target and J.C. Penney tied for third place with 8% of the vote. However, when the number of stores is factored in--Wal-Mart has 3,600 locations in North America, while Kohl's and Target have one-third that number--Kohl's came out on top with 13.2% of the vote, followed by Target with 8.8%. Target got a call out from consumers for having speed of service, overall atmosphere and green/sustainable growth policies. Target also tied for first with J.C. Penney for "ability to find what I need" and friendly service, while Kohl's, Wal-Mart ad Target virtually tied for first place in overall value. Macy's took the top spot for brand names carried, according to the survey.   <brandweek.com>

Frugality expected to reduce cosmetic purchases - American consumers will maintain and even intensify their focus on thrift in 2010, and their frugality is expected to reduce cosmetics purchases by women by nearly 9 percent. According to a survey of 600 Americans, age 25 and up, by AlixPartners’ consumer products group, women are expected to reduce spending on cosmetics by 8.7% next year, greater than the 7.5% decline expected for prepared food and prepackaged meals or the 3.4% drop foreseen for health and personal care items among all respondents. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed said they expected to be more frugal when shopping for food in 2010 and 55 percent said they would reduce their spending on household-care products. “In personal care, consumers plan to spend less overall, but indicate they will remain loyal to brand names,” said David Garfield, a managing director of Alix and leader of its CPG practice. He noted that while consumers have been “value shoppers” in 2009, “they have evolved into ‘value-hunters, tracking down deals and perceived value.” The study showed the consumers in the South are less likely to scale back buying in 2010 than those in other U.S. regions. “At a time when the CPG industry is already facing lower sales and tighter margins, companies will need to adopt more strategically targeted marketing strategies and leaner cost structures to succeed,” said Rich Vitaro, a director at Alix.  <wwd.com>

The Senate renewed two trade preference programs Tuesday night that were set to expire at the end of the year -The unanimous voice vote paved the way for a one-year extension of both the Generalized System of Preferences, which provides duty free benefits to 131 designated countries covering about 4,800 products, and a program of duty free benefits for the Andean countries. The House previously passed one-year extensions for the programs, which will take effect after being signed by President Obama. “I applaud the U.S. Senate for taking action to keep these important programs from lapsing,” said Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. Julia Hughes, senior vice president international trade for the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, said, “This gives us 2010 as the year to seriously review all the trade preference programs and hopefully package an updated 21st-century preference program early.” Apparel importers and retailers are pushing for changes to overhaul the trade preference programs. They have proposed a simpler, unified rule of origin and an expansion of duty free benefits to include Bangladesh and Cambodia. U.S. textile groups have opposed expansion of the programs and support the GSP and Andean preferences in their current form. Tuesday’s vote provides “stability in the marketplace,” said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition. “We like the programs in their current form. We have concerns with folks who are proposing significant changes.” <wwd.com>

Rretailers who kept a lid on inventories to try to squeeze out profits are looking to holiday’s second season (the week between Christmas and New Year’s) - True to form, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans even deeper discounts and department store and fashion chains across the U.S. will elevate markdowns to more than 50% to make room for resort and spring goods. The world’s largest retailer said Wednesday that from Dec. 26 through New Year’s Day it will offer new deals such as a $50 gift card with an Xbox 360 purchase, an eMachine netbook for $228 and as much as 50% off clearance on hundreds of home holiday items such as candles, ribbons, bows and toys. Wal-Mart alsowill extend other holiday deals such as Blu-ray movies for less than $20. Wal-Mart sees gift cards figuring in big in the post-holiday week, particularly among mothers getting them as gifts. Two out of five Wal-Mart-shopping mothers plan to use their gift cards immediately after Christmas, believing they will find the best prices at that time, the retailer said. Season-long strategies to cut costs, keep inventories low and markdowns contained appear to be paying off — even as research indicated more consumers than ever were delaying purchases in the hope of discounts — with several retailers saying fourth-quarter margins are healthy and ahead of last year’s, which don’t take much to beat. Merchandise stocks were cut about 25% at soft goods stores and 10% in electronics stores, along with reductions in personnel and administrative expenses. The downsizings came amid reduced demand, double-digit unemployment, the soft housing market and overall economic turmoil. Some merchants acknowledged going too far with the inventory reductions in certain categories and missing potential sales in areas such as shoes, handbags and contemporary sportswear, though overall, they don’t regret the paradigm shift. <wwd.com>

Claire's Stores is working to make jewelry and accessories available to a wider age group - Claire’s Stores Inc.’s European president, Kenny Wilson, wants to make the jewelry and accessories retailer’s products as relevant to girls of 18 as they are to those of eight. Wilson said he is trying to infuse the products with more fashionable elements, expand Claire’s presence in Europe and revamp the label’s stores. “In the U.K. and France, we’re market leading with the three- to seven-year-olds and we’re market leading with the seven- to 12-year-olds,” said Wilson, an 18-year veteran of Levi Strauss & Co. “But by the time you get to the 13- to 18-year-olds, they don’t say Claire’s [is their favorite brand].…I think a big part of what that 13- to 18-year-old is into is not just the product itself, but the intangible values around the product. So that’s really where we’re putting that emphasis.” “The feedback we’re getting from customers is that this is far less cluttered for them,” Wilson said. “The three- to seven-year-old loves Claire’s and she knows she can find [her product], so she’ll seek it out. Therefore, we’re giving the prime space up front to the customer that we want to attract.” Wilson has recruited more designers and given Claire’s buying teams “the opportunity to be able to put a little bit more into the cost of goods, to be able to raise the quality of the item for the consumer. The goal is to be further ahead on the fashion curve.” For spring, themes for Claire’s collections will revolve around trend-led stories such as “rock chick” and “tribal.’’ Prices for the line have also risen slightly, with the average price now 5 pounds, or about $8, for a piece such as a hair accessory or jewelry item. Prices range from 1.50 pounds, or $2.40, for stud earrings, to 40 pounds, or $64, for a handbag. Next, Wilson plans to maximize the label’s footprint in Europe. The majority of the label’s European stores are in the U.K. and France, but Wilson believes Spain and Germany, where the company has 93 and 35 stores, respectively, are prime for expansion. <wwd.com>

Early Spring collections a cash generator for high end retailers with a focus on menswear - Resort, early spring, pre-collection — the description may vary, but one thing is clear: The season known most often in men’s wear as pre-spring is increasingly becoming a major cash generator for high-end retailers. When these items hit stores right before holiday, they provide needed pop on the selling floor and give merchants an opportunity to sell fresh goods at full price during a heightened promotional period. Whether bought as gifts or by men shopping for themselves, pre-spring goods often are scooped up by shoppers seeking something new and different that hasn’t yet been picked over. In a fast-fashion era of Zara and H&M, pre-spring appeals to the male consumers’ propensity to shop more often. The collections also address the need for lighter-weight goods at stores located in warm-weather regions. And they remain at full price all during the post-holiday clearance period. True “resort” merchandise — swimwear, T-shirts and shorts designed for vacationers — is a small business in men’s and pales in comparison with pre-spring goods. In fact, retailers said pre-spring has become so important that, depending on vendor and category, it can account for 30% to 60%of their budgets for the season. As a result, designer brands ranging from Gucci, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana to luxury labels such as Ermenegildo Zegna and Loro Piana have come to embrace pre-spring collections over the last several years for providing significant add-on business. Although it requires more work in the design studio, the payoff on the bottom line is significant enough to warrant the extra work. Pre-spring is “extremely important in men’s wear,” said Russ Patrick, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear for Neiman Marcus. Over the past 10 years, the Dallas-based retailer has worked hard to encourage designers it carries to offer an extra delivery that hits stores in November.  <wwd.com>

Best Buy Co., the largest electronics retailer, outpaced rivals in electronics sales this holiday shopping season by offering discounts on laptops and flat-panel televisions - Consumer spending at Best Buy rose faster than at competitors such as Newegg Inc., Fry’s Electronics Inc. and RadioShack Corp., according to Mint.com, a personal-finance Web site that was acquired by Intuit Inc. last month. The site has about 1.8 million users. Best Buy, based in Richfield, Minnesota, captured a larger share of the consumer-electronics market after Circuit City Stores Inc. ceased operations this year and CompUSA closed stores. The company also lowered prices on some products last quarter to compete with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. <bloomberg.com>

America Apparel's use of YouTube for its line of dog clothing - American Apparel has been targeting ads to over 100 videos of pets, including a clip of a skateboarding canine, to promote its line of dog clothing. The Los Angeles-based brand chose the videos based on suggestions from employees. "It would be hard to do an advertisement on the back page of LA Weekly or a fashion magazine for the dog T-shirt," noted Ryan Holiday, a Web marketing executive at American Apparel. YouTube hopes more advertisers will follow American Apparel's lead. The venue has little problem drumming up interest in its front-page and marquee placements, but it needs to entice advertisers deeper into the site to pair their brands with long-tail content. Knowing some companies are still uncomfortable with category-wide targeting -- YouTube has a pets and animals channel, for example -- the Google-owned property began offering specific video targeting earlier this month. The initiative lets advertisers build custom video lists from among the clips entered in YouTube's partner program. "There is a perfect ad for every video," said Shishir Mehrotra, director of product management, video monetization at Google. He believes the dogs-on-skateboards examples proves the point, since those types of videos have served as what he calls a "punching bag" for YouTube critics who contend the site will fail to attract advertisers to the vast majority of its content. <brandweek.com>

US: Landowners to take legal action against Prime Tanning - Lawsuits were filed on behalf of 24 plaintiffs against Prime Tanning Corporation of St Joseph, Missouri and three affiliated businesses over fertilizers they spread on farms in Northwest Missouri. This is the latest set-back for National Beef Leathers the current owners of the former Prime Tanning site which have so far successfully fought-off other legal challenges earlier this year. The lawsuits were filed at the Buchanan County Court House and represented 17 Buchanan County landowners, one Clinton County landowner (Stewartsville) and six DeKalb County Landowners (Amity and Clarksdale). <fashionnetasia.com>

H.H. Brown is banking on its 125-year heritage in the domestic shoemaking business to spark interest in its new Vintage Shoe Co. division - The line of men’s and women’s shoes are inspired by American styles that the Greenwich, Conn.-based company said has withstood the tests of time. Included in the men’s offering are engineer, harness, Western and jodhpur boots, in addition to classic chukkas, brogues and penny mocs. Playing up the nostalgic element, the leathers have a weathered and timeworn finish. The collection is produced in the company’s U.S. factory and is made with domestic leathers. Set to retail from $220 to $375, it will be aimed at high-end boutiques, department and specialty stores and is slated March and April delivery. <wwd.com>