“To a great extent,” writes Steven Platt of the Platt Retail Institute in his 2008 first quarter Analytics Report, “consumer spending powers the U. S. Economy. And this spending drives retail sales.”
Platt predicts weakness in retail sales through the first half of this year. A few of the indicators he sites are:
1. Starbucks lowered its number of new store openings for this year by 27 percent.
2. The National Retail Federation forecasts modest 2008 retail sales of 3.5 percent.
3. Best Buy cut its earning forecast.
4. Sears is cutting 200 headquarters jobs.
5. Talbot’s is trimming inventories by 7 percent to 8 percent this year.
6. Zale is closing 60 stores.
7. Chico’s is cutting capital spending by $100 million.
8. Movie Gallery plans to close 400 more stores as part of a reorganization.
9. Home Depot will eliminate about 10 percent of its workforce — or about 500 jobs.
10. Ann Taylor will close 117 stores over the next two years.
There is more in the Platt report, but you get the idea. The question is: What to do? Well, we’ve been discussing customer service this week, and that seems to be an area worth your focus. If people are in your store, chances are they need something — either today or next week. Engage them. Talk to them. Find out how you can help them. If you don’t have what they want, maybe you can get it. In this economy, particularly, every customer counts. Treat them like royalty.