retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Interesting piece in Fortune about an apparent disconnect among the nation’s major retailers. Here’s how the magazine frames the question:

“It certainly looks like happy days are here again. Many of the nation's biggest retailers, including Saks, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, and Target have released cheery sales reports. April's jobs reports showing a slight increase in the workweek and pay for workers, and more hiring across the board.

“And then there is Wal-Mart, whose happy yellow face switched to a grimace when it released first quarter sales on Tuesday. Although international growth helped push revenues up 6%, sales at U.S. stores fell 1.4% from the same period last year. And the company had no one to blame but its shoppers. ‘More than ever, our customers are living paycheck to paycheck,’ said Tom Schoewe, the chief financial officer.

“So who are you supposed to believe? In this case, Bentonville.”

Fortune makes the case that there are a number of issues that continue to weigh on consumers and the economy, making any bravado or confidence tenuous at best. Among them:

• The “flash crash,” which reignited concerns about the volatility of the stock market.
• Greece’s bankruptcy concerns, which seem likely to spread throughout Europe.
• Continuing high unemployment and under-employment rates.
• Flat or declining real wage levels.

Happy days are here again? Not so much...
KC's View:
No question that the economy is at best fragile. It took us a long time to get here, it’ll take a long time to dig out...though our culture of immediate gratification makes that almost inconceivable to a lot of people. Still, there are more iPad lines than bread lines ... so all may not be lost.