Friday, March 06, 2009

N.Y. Times and W.S. Journal Go Shopping For Retail News

But They Come Home With Different Results

So which is it?

A headline in today's New York Times reads "Retail Sales Slide Further, Except at Wal-Mart."

But in The Wall Street Journal it's "Retail Sales Show Signs of Life."

Who's right? Maybe both.

The Times article by Stephanie Rosenbloom leads off:

The nation’s retailers reported sales results for February that were as bleak as those of recent months — yet they were also slightly better than Wall Street was expecting, and a tentative indicator that economic deceleration may be slowing.

So, that's what passes for good news nowadays -- it was bad, just not as bad as we forecast. But still bad. And in case you had any hopes it was going to get good, easy there, cowboy.

Retailing analysts cautioned against reading too much into the February figures, predicting that coming months would continue to be difficult for stores as consumers settled into more austere lifestyles.

Which us pretty much back where we started. As for the Journal:

Americans finally started spending again in February -- largely at discounters such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. -- leading to the first monthly gain in retail-industry sales since September.

The story from Ann Zimmerman dug a little deeper to find:

Shoppers are spending more on groceries, countertop appliances and cookware as they cut back on trips to restaurants, say retailers.

But again, the glass isn't half full for long.

One month doesn't make a trend, and the economic news remains gloomy. Growing joblessness and difficulties in getting consumer credit continue to weigh on the economy. Consumer confidence also continues at record lows.

And yet....

Even so, "it seems that we are starting to see less negative trends," said Bob Drbul, a retail analyst and managing director at Barclays Capital.

"Less negative." I love it. But try spinning that to a store manager in a mall, many of whom are picking up more lint than new business nowadays.

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