Collective Brands , which operates Payless ShoeSource and Stride Rite stores, recently outpaced analysts' estimates for its fiscal first-quarter. Although revenue fell 7 percent in the quarter, sales of its children's footwear in the U.S. has risen, and sales of its high-end Saucony running shoes have been strong, Rubel said.
Rubel explains consumers are looking at price and they are looking at innovation. That's helped the company's value-prices shoes at Payless and its Saucony brand, which recently designed a running shoe that touts its ability to distribute weight more evenly during exercise.
Rubel expects consumers to remain cautious in the second quarter, which will be a tough one for retailers because of tough comparisons with last year when spending was propped up by economic stimulus checks that were mailed to many taxpayers.
"As we head into the third quarter, though, where the consumer impairment really was at its worst, I do believe you will see some positive change in the third quarter, but the second quarter, I think, will be toughest year on year," Rubel says.
"Consumer spending as a percentage of GDP has moved down, will probably continue to move down through the end of year, and then normalize as we get into somewhere in early-to-mid next year, from our point of view," says Rubel.
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