Few months have provided more unclear sales data than November 2007. One reason is the shift in the reporting calendar by one week from last year. The second reason is the wide array of large-scale distractions and pressures consumers face, including increasing fuel prices, continuing war, sub-prime mortgages and the uncertainty of the presidential campaign. Thirdly, retailers found themselves with over-plan inventories, particularly in apparel, the much over-hyped Black Friday and the unknown threat of competitive reaction in the weeks ahead.
All of these factors make it virtually impossible to determine who is serving their customers well and who is not. For example, Target reported a 10.8% comp-store increase for November. On a calendar-adjusted basis, the increase was only 1.1%. Until the year-end tallies are in, it will be very difficult to determine who the winners and losers actually are.
Buried in all of this confusion are some continuing trends. Customer-focused retailers like Nordstrom, Saks and The Buckle are powering ahead. The large-scale factors seem to have a very limited effect on their continued profitable growth. In contrast, retailers such as Sears, Kmart and Chico’s are paying an ever-increasing price for their lack of understanding the customer they are trying to serve. To view the entire Trending Report, go to