McDonald's CEO: Consumers Still 'Skittish'

Consumers remain "skittish," but the economy may be in the very early stages of a recovery, McDonald's CEO and Vice Chairman Jim Skinner said Friday.

"I would say we're in the very early stages," Skinner told CNBC, in an interview. (For the full interview, watch the video to the left.)

"The unemployment rate continues to climb and I don't think consumer confidence has really moved off of its low, at least that's our observation here at McDonald's," Skinner said. "You know that our customers are getting pinched everywhere they go because of costs. Then you look at unemployment and the lack of confidence in the future because everybody's a little skittish."

Skinner said the fast-food chain is "well-positioned," and has not had any major problems getting the credit it needs to expand or remodel its restaurants.

"It's still a tough environment, but I do see some thawing," he said. "If you look at the credit markets and you look at the activities around the financials I think that bodes well for the future, and bodes well for the consumer."


McDonald's has been gaining share in almost every market in which it operates, Skinner said.

"We're very pleased with the start of '09 at McDonald's," he said. "January and February sales and guest counts were solid, particularly considering we lost a day due to leap year a year ago."

Skinner declined to comment on performance in March, citing the company's quiet period.

"I remain confident overall for the remainder of '09...We're still optimistic for the year," Skinner said.

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According to a regulatory filing released Friday, Skinner's compensation climbed 44 percent to $13.6 million in 2008.

Much of the increase was tied to option awards, which were valued at $4.4 milllion last year. Skinner's 2007 option awards were valued at $1.4 million.

McDonald's shares rose 5.6 percent from the end of 2007 to the end of 2008.

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