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Retail CEOs See 'Very Challenging' Climate

After a surprise gain in retail sales for March, CNBC asked CEOs of top retailers how they're faring.

Discounters Not Immune

“We do have a lot more speed, but traffic has been down in the general retail marketplace which has led to fewer people actually getting into their car and going shopping. But what we have seen is those people who do get out and go shopping when they enter our stores, we’re seeing that they’re buying a little bit more than they used to.”

- Matthew Rubel, Collective Brands CEO

Ikea CEO on Falling Sales

“We also see a shift in consumption to other areas, other businesses like leisure, travel, electronics, away from areas like home furnishing. So it is an interesting challenge that we have ahead of us. We see rising costs in the salary costs, we also see rising raw material prices, which has an effect on our margins, and we have the slowdown in the consumption. So, the combination of those three, of course, makes a very challenging retail climate.”

- Andres Dahlvig, Ikea CEO

Saks CEO on High-End Market

"I think clearly you're seeing a slowdown in the luxury sector. It's a different time in the luxury business. This is probably as weak or weaker than we saw post 9-11...Right now, you're trying to be as focused on the customer as you can. Service is so important. Right now, we're probably in a mode where we're clearing out, and all of the competitors are clearing out a little bit more in inventory than we'd like to see in the system."

- Steve Sadove, Saks CEO

Alliance CEO on Inventories

"We expect for the last year we see our inventory control get much more priority than other activity in the company...Europe I think today start to get reaction to what's happening in the United States."

- Claudio Del Vecchio, Alliance CEO