Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Business as usual

Yesterday, the Conference Board, an independent research group, reported that consumer confidence has reached its lowest point since the measurement began in 1967 -- 25 points on a 100-point scale. At the same time, retailers like Macy's and Nordstrom's reported 4th quarter profit drops of 40-60 percent.

Man the War Room! Fire up the promotions engine! Let's get aggressive! Right?

Evidently, wrong.

Last week, finding myself with a couple of hours to kill between out-of-town meetings, I did what any red-blooded American girl would do: I went to the local mall. Although I wasn't looking to acquire anything in particular, I'm not afraid to brandish the plastic when the right opportunity presents itself.

It didn't.

In all but the two "anchor" department stores, I was the only customer in each shop I visited. I did received the perfunctory, "Welcome to fill-in-the-blank" when I entered, but was promptly abandoned. Aware that these are tough times for retailers -- hey, I read the paper -- I scanned the racks for the sales...the special-purchase displays...the two-fer shelves. Know what I found? Row after row of shiny new merchandise at full, start-of-the-season price. Every item in the full array of sizes, untouched. Dangling tags unmarked, and unmarked-down. The only sale prices to be found were on the ubiquitous rack at the back of the store with last season's orphans in their final gasp.

Huh-lo?? Have all the marketers been laid off? Did the CFOs lock the War Room door so the retailers couldn't get out? Has supply versus demand been redefined, and I missed it?

Sheesh, people. Let me know how it goes with those first-quarter profits.