In a month like February, I always hesitate to attempt to draw any conclusions from the comp-store-sales data. Strong sales may be a reflection of the liquidation of excess winter inventory rather than early indications of spring selling. Weak sales may reflect clean inventories rather than a problem.
The news media provided more than adequate coverage on the increasing pressures on the consumer as well as deteriorating confidence, so I will avoid commenting on those topics. What I do think is worth pointing out is the continued and growing strength of some retailers in the face of this bad news. Rather than focus on the past 30 days, real value comes from looking at the longer-term trends. One of the great mistruths in business is that a rising tide (or in this case a lowering one) raises (or lowers) all boats. Month after month the group highlighted in the chart is reporting strong comp-store results. (Saks reported comp-store sales of 24.7% in February 2007.) What makes this performance particularly interesting is these retailers are in different channels, different price lines, different categories of merchandise and serve a broad range of customers. Also, many of these retailers typically outperform their peer group on financial results. Retailers that continue to attribute their weak results to fuel prices, housing and the general economy should study the group highlighted in the chart.
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.”