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  • Jennifer Marks

Readying for the Second Half

Jennifer MarksMACY'S, KOHL'S, DILLARD'S and JCPenney all turned out pretty decent second quarter numbers last week, but only Macy's raised its outlook for the second half. Kohl's and JCPenney were less rosy in their expectations, and Dillard's didn't address the issue either way.
     With the exception of Kohl's, they were all up against some easy comparisons - a net loss in the 2009 quarter for Dillard's, break-even results for JCPenney, and a miniscule year-ago profit for Macy's.
     That JCPenney and Kohl's regard the second half warily would seem to confirm consumer wariness, a scenario that has sadly been borne out by recent trends in consumer confidence.
     This week we'll find out how things are going off the mall, with financials coming from Walmart, TJX, Target and Ross Stores, among others. Target aside, the others had a relatively strong time of it last year as consumers went down-market.
"There will be many tea leaves to pore over once all the numbers come in to look for clues to the second half."
     While Walmart earnings didn't show a lot of growth in last year's second quarter (89 cents per share, up from 86 cents), it exceeded expectations. TJX's earnings
shot up 35.5%, and Ross Stores' profit exploded 52%.
     There will be many tea leaves to pore over once all the numbers come in to look for clues to the second half. In the meantime, in the independent retail sector, word coming out of the nearly concluded round of summer shows indicates boutiques are not ordering at the same pace they were during the winter shows - when they were scrambling to replace absolutely depleted inventories.
     So, the first half wound up working out better than many had expected six months ago, and the second half - which had been anticipated to deliver more of a climb - is looking rather so-so.
     It is probably for these reason we increasingly hear off-shore manufacturers talking about developing business in their home markets. It also, I would think, explains why we're not seeing non- U.S. manufacturers moving to open business here. The last one I met spent a week here talking to various industry folk, then went home and decided to ditch the enterprise.
     There's some small comfort for suppliers who already have a piece of the market.

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