A survey conducted by America’s Research Group revealed that 30% of American consumers planned to spend more money in May than they had in April, but 27% would only purchase merchandise that was marked down 50% or more. The Mother’s Day Holiday promised to give May sales a boost, but rising gas prices cut shopping budgets even more. Last year’s May had the infusion of $50 billion in tax refund money, while this year’s May had the inclusion of the entire Memorial Day weekend, a phenomenon that happens only once every 11 years.
When you factor all those conditions and look at the May same store sales numbers compared to charts which no longer include Wal-Mart’s numbers, what do you get? You get a whole bunch of numbers interpreted from a whole bunch of different angles. What you don’t get are many surprises or clear conclusions.
As is the case with so many aspects of retailing, same store sales analysts were looking for a new normal in May, since monthly same store figures no longer include Wal-Mart’s numbers. The easy solution for analysts was to pull up the spreadsheets, strip Wal-Mart out of the equation for the past 15 years, and redraw the charts as if the world’s largest retailer was not part of the U.S. retail industry. Simple enough.
This statistical manipulation makes the recent past look a lot worse, but it also provides a big picture look that is somewhat comforting as well. There are other points in the past when Wal-Mart significantly outperformed the rest of the U.S. retail industry, but everybody got back into alignment eventually. We can all find comfort in the hope that retail history will repeat itself in this way again. The big question is how long “eventually” will take.
Without the Wal-Mart benchmark, and the easy Wal-Mart story angle, the significance of monthly same store sales primarily lies in the comparison of individual retailer numbers with their own past performance. Perhaps that makes more sense anyway.
For the first time in seven months... more...