Posts Tagged ‘recession’

Fastest growing retailers

Posted on: August 11th, 2014 by

Whole Foods MarketFollowing the recession, retailers are growing once again and, increasingly, moving online. In the first quarter of 2014, retail sales were 2.4% higher than the same time the year before, largely helped by a 15% jump in e-commerce sales. Online retail is increasingly accounting for more and more of America’s shopping.

Yet not all retailers have adapted to a market where many Americans have less disposable income, and are increasingly choosing to shop online. Other companies, in turn, have become enormously successful by embracing these changes. Based on figures from the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) STORES magazine, compiled by Kantar Retail, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s Fastest-Growing Retailers.

In 2013,’s U.S. sales rose by 27%, the most of any retailer. For some retailers, such as Tractor Supply Co., part of its continued growth comes from the fact that they sell products simply cannot, such as farm equipment and livestock.

Many other retailers have also moved online, embracing a more-targeted approach in order to set themselves apart from the competition. Bryan Gildenberg, chief knowledge officer at Kantar Retail, told 24/7 Wall St. that this kind of personalized approach, “makes buying much more enjoyable and finding what you want much quicker.”

Some retailers have benefited from the financial struggles facing many Americans. This includes Family Dollar, which targets low income shoppers and had 11% growth in sales in 2013. Others, such as Sherwin Williams, have benefited from more positive developments in the economy. An improving housing market helped the company’s sales rise by 18% last year.

And while many growing retailers are deeply impacted by changes in the economy, others are benefiting from evolving customer tastes. Both Whole Foods and Apple are among the fastest-growing retailers in America, and both have very strong brands aligned with changing consumer spending. Whole Foods’ commitment to organic food and Apple’s exceptional mobile product quality both resonate strongly with customers, who are often willing to pay more for these items.

While many of the fastest-growing retailers have different customers and products, they also have a great deal in common. Gildenberg noted that many retailers aimed “most of [their] energy at the middle of the market.” However, he added that, recently, growth has generally been stronger among companies that target a specific segment of the population.

For example, he noted that Whole Foods and Family Dollar are much more similar than they might look at first glance. “They both target segments of the population that general mass retail, for whatever reason, doesn’t serve as well.”

The addition of new stores can also play an important role in driving sales growth. Excluding Amazon, which is exclusively online, all but one of the fastest-growing retailers increased their U.S. store count in 2013. The one retailer that did not do so, AT&T, has heavily invested in new store designs and has opened or renovated a number of locations. Gildenberg noted that store growth is currently quite strong among more specialized retailers with unique store concepts.

To identify America’s 10 fastest-growing retailers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed STORES’ Top 100 Retailers report. The report is based on Kantar Retail’s estimates for companies’ retail-only sales, and includes the 100 largest companies by this measure, as well as their estimated number of stores. The companies on our list had the largest percentage gains in U.S. retail sales between 2012 and 2013. Sales figures listed do not include third-party sales. We also excluded Albertson’s and Ascena Retail Group from our list. These companies had retail revenue gains that were largely driven by transformative mergers and acquisitions.

Picky Buyers Lead to a Slowed Housing Market

Posted on: June 21st, 2010 by

Financial Planning - Taxes - Rockville, MDPrior to the recession, people simply looked for a house, any house, to buy.  Later on, buyers were hesitant just thinking about buying.  Now, they seem to be on a quest for perfection at the perfect price.  Perfection seeking buyers are turning the battered real estate market upside-down.  Agents are saying that this is leading to last-minute demands for multiple concessions, bruised feelings on all sides and many more collapsed deals than usual.

It is a complete reversal of roles from the boom, when competing buyers were sometimes reduced to writing heartfelt letters saying how much they loved the house and how they promised to eternally worship the memory of the previous owners.  Nowadays days, it is the buyers who are coldly seeking the absolute best deal while the sellers are left in emotional turmoil.

It was largely expected that the housing market would suffer at least a temporary hangover after the government’s $8,000 tax credit expired in April, but not necessarily this much.  In some places, sales dropped more than 20 percent from May 2009, when the worst of the financial crisis had subsided.  Builders have been affected too.  The Commerce Department has stated that the construction of new homes in May dropped 17.2 percent from April, which is significantly lower than forecast.  Permits for future construction dropped 10 percent, suggesting a sluggish summer.  Even the lowest home mortgage rates in decades are not doing much to promote deals.  The Mortgage Bankers Association has said that applications for loans to buy houses were down by a third compared with last year.

Against such a backdrop of misery, buyers are empowered — and are taking full advantage of their position.  Buyers, of course, say they are merely being smart.  In some cases, however, agents have said that sellers literally cannot afford to make concessions.  Another $10,000 will push them underwater, which means they will have to arrange the sale through the bank.  Even when a sale can be worked out, it is not uncommon for everyone to walk away feeling more aggravated than excited.

When It’s Okay to Carry Debt

Posted on: June 16th, 2010 by

Financial Planning - Rockville, MDFederal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has told Congress that “the federal budget appears to be on an unsustainable path,” but that that the “exceptional increase” in the deficit had been necessary to pull the country out of recession.  That raises a question everyone should consider: When is debt okay and when is it not? After all, everyone has financial rough spots.  The federal government is a good example of what ordinary folks should not do: pile debt upon debt forever, taking out new loans to pay off old ones.

In one of its most dangerous practices, the government uses short-term borrowing to fund long-term obligations.  That seems to work fine when interest rates are very low, because rates are lower on short-term loans than on long-term ones.  But later the borrower may have to take out new loans at higher rates, having passed up the opportunity to lock in a low long-term rate when it was available.

This is what homeowners do when they choose adjustable-rate mortgages over ones with fixed rates, or when they use one credit card to pay off another.  So the first lesson the dysfunctional Federal government teaches us is: don’t finance long-term obligations with short-term loans.  Don’t use an 18% credit card to fund a home addition that will take years to pay off.  If you must borrow for that, take out a home-equity loan.  The rate is likely to be half as much.

What about borrowing in an emergency?  In a real emergency, you can justify almost anything.  A legitimate emergency is a serious illness, or a car problem that will keep you from getting to work, a leaky roof that will ruin your home.  The need for a vacation is NOT an emergency.  Basically, an emergency is something that will seriously undermine your life for years, not something that will put a little damper on your lifestyle.  If necessary, borrow to get basic, essential transportation, not to get luxuries like leather seats and navigation systems.  Of course, the average American is borrowing all the time, using credit cards for everything from gas to groceries to clothes and entertainment.  Credit cards should be used for convenience, so you don’t have to carry cash.  Balances should be paid off in the grace period to avoid interest and other charges.