We had family in this weekend from all over — Paris, Chicago, Houston — so we got to play NYC tour guide. The Frick, Patsy’s Pizza, and La Ginestra (a fabulous local restaurant by our home) were all on our tour.
Under the category of Economic Research, we also did quite a bit of window shopping on Madison and Fifth Avenues at the request of my wife’s French cousines. Since we have Same Store Sales data coming out today, I thought I would recount the weekend’s shopping spree.
Caution: Anecdotal evidence to follow:
Sunday was a bright sunny day — a bit windy and cool. Everywhere we went was fairly crowded with shoppers, but not necessarily buyers. That’s the danger of anecdotal evidence — it needs backing data. While you may not have been able to find a parking space at the mall, that only tells us people are in stores — but it does not say how much or little they are actually spending.
Perfect example: The flagship Abercrombie & Fitch store on 5th Ave — filled with teens, pounding euro-pop, and half clad employees — was jammed, yet there were only 3 registers open, and the lines were short. Considering the huge traffic, I found that odd.
The big Jewlery stores — Tiffany, Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels (and another whose name escapes) — were not very crowded. We looked at some pricey baubles (I almost bought a watch for $200,000). Fortunoff’s on Long Island has also been rather empty, and it has one of the best Jewelry departments you’ll come across int he ‘burbs.
Coach was actually very busy, and Dooney & Bourke seemed to be having some sort of a party going on. Again, this is just one store — in a very high rent shopping district — it may or may not be reflective of broader trends chain wide.
Bloomingdales was also a mixed bag: The Men’s Department was empty (I found a 2 nice Ted Baker ties and Zegna I added to my want list). The women’s departments had more people than the men’s but were not particularly crowded.
The lone exception was the shoe section, which was an absolute madhouse. I wish I had known about this place before I was married. If you are single guy living in NY, you can forget about single bars — this is where you want to hang out (incredible talent pool, zero competition).
Incidentally, Mrs. Big Picture, who teaches fashion illustration and design, was sure right about boots being huge this year; they were everywhere — very sexy knee highs, lace-ups, fur trimmed, leather gear. She told me about this 2 years ago, and I never thought how to play it via either shoe companies or specific retail stores. (I need to start listening to her more).
What was so interesting about the shopping trip was my prior expectations had been somewhat bifurcated: High end stores had been doing well for the past few yearss, while the lower end stores were highly dependent upon gasoline prices;
The ugly recent data from Wal-Mart — gains were up just 0.5% for the October,versus expectations of 2-4% improvement in same store sales — belies that thesis. In September, Personal Spending rose just 0.1%; This implies that consumers across all strata are beginning to scale back "sport shopping." Combined with the punk GDP data, this could be the leading edge of the 2007 recession.
Agains, this is only anecdotal evidence — but the data is what matters more, and we get a load of it today via Same Store Sales.
While we await today’s SSS, have a gander at this chart (via Mike Panzner) that shows the diffusion of retail spending across different store categories:
Panzner notes: "Gas stations (no doubt because of rising fuel prices), building materials/garden supplies stores (housing boom?), and health/personal care stores (convenience?) have boosted their share of consumers’ retail-spending dollar over the past decade."