For Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, it’s “green shoots.” For retailers, the new buzzword is “stabilization.”
While business remains challenging for most stores and no one is expecting a massive turnaround anytime soon, there are signs the worst may be coming to an end. The stock market is seeing relatively consistent gains, housing sales in some of the hardest-hit markets are simmering again and retailers from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to J.C. Penney Co. Inc. to Casual Male Retail Group Inc. and Claire’s Stores Inc. point to a slight uptick in sales this spring that could be the first signal of better times ahead. Further signs are expected today when retailers release comparable-store sales.
In an address to Congress earlier this week, Bernanke said: “The recent data…suggest that the pace of contraction may be slowing, and they include some tentative signs that final demand, especially demand by households, may be stabilizing. Consumer spending, which dropped sharply in the second half of last year, grew in the first quarter. In coming months, households’ spending power will be boosted by the fiscal stimulus program, and we have seen some improvement in consumer sentiment.”
Although the recovery is not expected to be swift and unemployment figures will be among the last numbers to rebound, the picture is indeed brightening.
The rebound in consumer confidence in April prompted Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, to comment that signs indicate “that conditions have not deteriorated further and may even moderately improve in the second quarter.”
At its analysts meeting in mid-April, Penney’s revised for the second time its first-quarter earnings per share guidance and is now expecting flat to slightly positive results. This was the second revision for the retailer, which had initially expected a loss of 20 cents to 30 cents in the period. Chief executive Myron E. “Mike” Ullman 3rd said compared to the “volatile” market of a year ago, the situation now is “more predictable.” Although it’s still “not a trend we like,” sales at Penney’s are running “slightly better than plan,” he said.
In reporting fourth-quarter results on April 23, Claire’s also indicated business is stabilizing and first-quarter sales are now running only “slightly negative.”
With single-digit declines now jokingly referred to as the “new up,” these numbers seem to indicate consumers are slowly starting to open their wallets and spend again. Eduardo Castro-Wright, head of Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores, last week said the retailer has recently seen a shift in buying patterns. As a result of lower taxes and gasoline prices, consumers aren’t focused as much on low-cost groceries and necessities and have begun to indulge themselves again “to buy some of the discretionary items that they were not buying before.”
A large portion of the balance sheet improvements certainly come as a result of tough decisions retailers have made over the past few months. Although March same-store sales were way down, April numbers are expected to be much better, thanks in large part to the Easter shift. Significant cuts in inventory, hefty expense reductions and scale backs in new-store growth are also helping stores rebound from the unprecedented free fall in sales that started last fall and will make same-store comparisons easier later in the year.
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
How does a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from the Bronx, N.Y., become a Grammy-nominated artist with a certified platinum record in less than a year? Call it the @iamcardib come up. The 25-year-old has become a musical sensation, and the fashion world is taking note. “If I could describe her style I would say drama. She’s really into the dramatics,” says Cardi B’s stylist @kollincarter. See how Carter styles her bold and out there looks with the link in bio. #wwdfashion
“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion