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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Retailer Watch

by Calculated Risk on 8/30/2006 08:24:00 PM

I've been looking for signs of a retail slowdown. Here is some more news today:

From MarketWatch: Ethan Allen sales slow in August

Ethan Allen Interiors Inc.'s chairman and chief executive Farooq Kathwari ... said sales have further slowed in August. In a statement, Kathwari said lower consumer confidence and the company's initiative to reduce lead time in filling customer orders has impacted the company's first quarter results. ...On July 27, the Danbury, Conn.-based maker and retailer of home furnishings and accessories said written business in past months had slowed from prior-year levels.
From Reuters: Costco cuts forecast as discretionary spending slows
Costco ... warned of lower-than-expected quarterly profit because of disappointing margins, as customers cut back on purchases of big-ticket discretionary items such as furniture
The warning from the largest U.S. warehouse club operator took analysts by surprise because Costco's sales growth has been among the strongest in the retail sector in recent quarters.
"This could be an early sign that the higher-income consumer is finally starting to feel a bit of a pinch," said Anthony Chukumba, an analyst with Morningstar.
Lower-priced chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have been feeling ... pressure for more than a year because their lower-income customers are most sensitive to rising energy costs.

There are indications that the economic pain is moving up the income scale. Chukumba noted that housewares retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc. ... cut its profit forecast last week.
Of course, there is this from the AP: Analysts See Solid August Retail Sales
Back-to-school shoppers are expected to lift August same-store sales for a handful of retailers, though high energy prices and interest rates will have likely tempered overall retail sales.

This year, August retail sales are also expected to benefit from tax-free holidays declared in 13 states aimed at helping back-to-school shoppers.
Overall the retail news isn't bad, and these warnings are not large misses. On Thursday, after the market closes, we will find out how the caffeine addicts (Starbucks) are holding up!