Consumer Nation

Shopping for Answers

It's a beautiful day in New York City, where 200 CEOs in the retail business are gathering after a stormy year. This is not shopping weather — so instead we go shopping for answers.


Those coming to the Women's Wear Daily Retail Summit at the St. Regis appear hopeful that the worst has passed, that even as unemployment tops 10 percent, retailers have made significant changes in the last year and can ride this out.

Some interesting trends to watch:

There may be a gap between those who did well in the stock market since the March lows, and the millions of Americans who've lost their jobs since then. MasterCard SpendingPulse says while run-of-the-mill department stores are seeing sales fall, sales of luxury goods — especially jewelry — are up in the upper-single digits.

A study by Alix Partners says 75 percent of retailers around the world expect the downturn to impact them into 2011. One interesting note — an earlier survey suggests that most Europeans don't expect their new frugality to last, but most Americans do. Alix Partners says Americans expect to spend only 86 percent of what they used to spend even after the economy improves.

Changing Face of Retail

Wedbush Morgan reported decreased traffic at America's malls this weekend. Even movie theaters and restaurants were slower. Maybe it's the weather (isn't it always? Can we blame the weather for the problems in healthcare?).

San Jose showed the most traffic, thanks to cooler weather! Wedbush's shopping bag check said the few bags it saw were from stores like Nordstrom , Gymboree , Gap's Banana Republic, and Macy's .

Sizing Up Retail

Speaking of California, WSL Strategic Retail joins Deutsche Bank in saying the spending outlook is finally improving in the Golden State.

Finally, my favorite tidbit: Consumer Reports says more than a third of us plan to regift a gift this holiday, more than last year. Not good for retail, but good for making room in the landfill.

We will be posting interviews from the WWD Retail Summit here over the next two days. Stay tuned...

Watch these interviews with Jane:

  • Bruce Rockowitz, president of Li & Fung
  • Gilbert Harrison, CEO, Financo

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