High-End Consumer Is Back: Collective Brands CEO

The high-end consumer is making a comeback, but mainstream consumers have yet to rebound and unemployment is to blame, Matthew Rubel, Collective Brandschairman and CEO, told CNBC Friday.


Rubel said he has seen proof of this in his own company, Collective Brands , which owns both discount shoe retailer Payless and premium shoe brands such as Saucony and Sperry.

The wide array of brands in Collective's portfolio allows Rubel to see what's happening with shoppers across a number of income levels.

"The premium consumer is clearly back," Rubel said. "So that upper one-third of consumers, their portfolios are recovered. They're not as worried about jobs right now and so they're back out shopping and when they are in the stores they are buying."

According to Rubel, the uptick in spending among high-end consumers made a comeback in late fall and has continued into the spring. But the bottom one-third of consumers are still barely present and continue to struggle with finding employment.

In Rubel's own company, Collective Brands, he said the turnover rate is at an all-time low, indicating people are worried about their jobs and not seeing many other job opportunties out there.

That means mainstream shoppers are not at the retailer on a dramatic basis, he said.

"We've still got one out of ten people unemployed in this country and a lot of people don't have money in the bank. It's really tough," said Rubel. "Unemployment plays a role and until we get jobs going in this country you're not going to see a total rebound from my perspective, you'll find sectoral things, but you're not going to find a total rebound."

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