NEW YORK — A slightly improved outlook from the Federal Reserve kept stocks from wallowing in the summer doldrums last week.
As a result, the WWD Composite Stock Index finished the week up 0.2 percent to 1,137.31, while the S&P 500 rose the same percentage to 1,198.11.
Trading during the week was mostly on lighter volume in the retail segment than in prior weeks. Investors seemed to brush off corporate-level news, good or bad. There were some exceptions, such as a rally of Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. after the company beat Wall Street analysts’ consensus estimates by a penny on Friday. The stock jumped 8.8 percent from the prior close, to $44.11.
In the department store sector, Saks Inc. said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Friday that it will be delaying the release of its first-quarter results “due to an internal investigation that also has delayed its 2004 annual report.” The investigation is in regard to vendor chargebacks. Saks had an extended deadline to file, which would have been this Tuesday, but now the retailer said it expects to file its reports by Sept. 1. The stock closed Friday up 3.8 percent to $18.06.
Meanwhile, industry analysts and investors are still recovering from the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas several weeks ago. It was generally upbeat, although there were some cautious views on the sector.
Industry executives there said U.S.-based retailers and developers have the opportunity to expand their store bases into international countries, but progress so far has been slow. That’s partially because true international successes within the sector can be hard to come by, and restrictions — both culturally and operationally — are numerous.
While clients of Forth Worth, Tex.-based Buxton, a customer analysis firm, are interested in growing internationally, the company has not yet taken its clients abroad.
“Too many [companies] have failed [internationally],” said Rich Hollander, president of Buxton’s CustomerID division, which helps retailers find the best physical site locations for their stores.
“The only one that’s really worked has been Wal-Mart in a few countries,” he added. However, Hollander also was quick to note the discounter’s difficulties with its stores in Germany. Wal-Mart is “the most efficient retailer in the world, and they can’t bring their efficiencies to other countries.”
While Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has had problems making its operations successful in Germany, the retailer’s growth in China, Mexico and the U.K. is moving at a decent pace. Asia, Spain and Australia are three countries industry executives said are ripe for retail store growth, as well as the cities of Moscow and London.
John Strachan, a consultant with the London office of Cushman & Wakefield Healey & Baker, noted that in Paris, Brussels and London, few domestic brands are competing with global retailers. “In Italy, Spain and Portugal, though, there are more local retailers. That would make an exciting place to step in and compete,” he said.