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The Roundup September 15

Shop till you drop comes back in fashion!

US retail sales climbed at the fastest rate in more than three years last month as the popular “cash for clunkers” car rebate programme succeeded in spurring a broader revival in consumer demand, official figures showed on Tuesday. Seriously, when you take out all the people taking advantage of the now defunct cash-for-clunkers program in August, we have a much more modest retail sales gain of 1%. While certainly not bad news (for the entire year, the good news is always that the bad news is not as bad as it could be), when you figure that part of that 1% gain was due to

(“US retail sales surge 2.7% in August,” Financial Times, September 15) Now, when you take all those folks who bought new autos using the now-defunct cash-for-clunkers program, you have a much more modest retail sales growth of 1.1%. Much of that is “overflow,” if you will, from the cash-for-clunkers program (if the federal government gave consumers subsidies to buy, say, online porn, you’d see a surge in retail sales across the board as a result). So, the recession may not quite be over, but we’re buying more stuff! Of course, they’re not telling you that all those gains in retail sales were chia pets and George Foreman grills, three easy payments and all . . .

Toys ‘R’ Us knows a deal when they see it.

Toys R Us plans to open nearly 350 pop-up stores in malls and inside Babies R Us stores by early October to drive sales during the crucial holiday season. . . .

Toys R Us CEO Jerry Storch said store closings among other retailers and the weak economy helped the company get some good deals on temporary leases. But location was the primary factor in selecting space.

(“Toys R Us amps up for holidays with more stores,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 15) I have said it several times in this blog: the record number of retail bankruptcies has left a lot of unfilled rental space in malls — and owners willing to take killer bargains just to fill that space. Our local mall in Palmdale has six empty stores and three (THREE!) empty anchor store spaces (of course, two of them used to be Gottschalks). If you’re the kind of person to drive a hard bargain — and the only skill you need to drive a killer bargain is the upfront willingness to walk away — and you have something you can push to a mall audience, you should be out there scoping out malls and take advantage of the desperation of their owners.

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