Competition Leads to Trends

The commonly reported monthly comparable-store sales change provides an interesting snapshot of one month’s performance. The longer-range trend provides a truer insight into what is actually happening with an individual retailer or in an entire channel. The following analysis highlights retailers that have established consistently improving or declining long-term comparable-store sales trends.

Observations

The shift in the Easter time frame has created much comment and speculation on what the comp-store sales actually indicate. While no one will ever know the real answer, I believe the calendar shift has briefly masked two significant trends. The first is Wal-Mart’s continuing deterioration against Target. About a year ago, Wal-Mart quietly commented on its effort to attract Target’s customers. The master of basics, at everyday low prices, stepped into an arena it does not understand and has paid a heavy price.

Quarterly Reporters With an Improving Nine-Month TrendSource: The Gordman Group
RetailerLast Reported QuarterLast Six MonthsLast Nine Months
Best Buy5.9%5.5%5.0%
GameStop26.5%22.2%19.3%
Tiffany & Co.9.0%7.9%7.1%
Tractor Supply Co.8.5%3.7%3.3%

Monthly Reporters With an Improving Six-Month Trend

Source: The Gordman Group
RetailerMarch 2006March 2007Previous 90 DaysPrevious Six Months
BJs Wholesale Club3.1%5.5%2.0%0.7%
Fred’s1.0%4.4%2.6%2.2%
Gottschalk’s–3.6%6.4%0.4%0.4%
Longs Drug Stores–0.6%2.9%2.2%2.1%
Neiman Marcus7.9%10.2%7.9%7.1%
Nordstrom4.3%15.0%9.5%9.5%
Sam’s Club4.8%7.4%3.6%2.6%
Stage Stores–3.9%12.4%2.9%2.9%
Wal-Mart US Stores1.6%3.4%1.3%0.9%

Monthly Reporters With a Declining Six-Month Trend

Source: The Gordman Group
RetailerMarch 2006March 2007Previous 90 DaysPrevious Six Months
CVS7.0%7.0%8.1%8.4%
Federated–1.1%2.3%4.7%6.0%
Walgreen4.3%8.0%9.0%9.4%

Quarterly Reporters With a Declining Nine-Month Trend

Source: The Gordman Group
RetailerLast Reported QuarterLast Six MonthsLast Nine Months
Charming Shoppes Inc.–1.0%–0.1%0.7%
Circuit City–0.5%1.9%3.6%
Dick’s Sporting Goods2.0%4.8%5.3%
DSW1.0%2.0%2.1%
Foot Locker–3.4%–1.9%–1.7%
Guitar Center1.3%2.0%2.9%
J. Crew7.0%12.2%13.4%

Target has perfected the art of taking a little bit of style and creating a hip image. Wal-Mart lost sight of its customers’ rules and stepped too far into a taste level few of its customers wanted. The fact that Target was up 7.3% in March over its 90-day trend and Wal-Mart was up 2.1% over trend for the same time frame clearly indicates what is happening.

The second trend is the squeezing of Macy’s between Nordstrom, Penney and Kohl’s. The challenge here is rather straightforward. If you are a customer for better merchandise would you rather shop at Nordstrom or Macy’s? On the other end of the spectrum, if you are a customer for moderate goods, which of the three would you shop? All of our research clearly shows the absolute driver of consumer behavior is selection. In this situation, Nordstrom out-assorts Macy’s in better goods, while Penney and Kohl’s does the same in moderate.

Robert Gordman is the president of The Gordman Group, Denver, and is the author of “The Must-Have Customer—7 Steps to Winning the Customer You Haven’t Got.”

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