18408 Mon, 03/22/2010 - 4:39pm
Don’t look now, but the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way.
No, some company at the Housewares Show this week is not introducing an automatic pendulum slicing machine ... although that’s actually not such a bad idea.
The pendulum we’re talking about is the symbolic one, the one that seems to chart the relative health of the economy.
It’s always easy for all the experts to tell you in hindsight when we went into a recession or when we came out, but if you’re living through one of these things, it’s pretty difficult to figure out where you are in the cycle. Most of us are just trying to keep our heads above water and that’s a full-time job in itself.
But if you’re paying attention, there are some tell-tale signs and clues you can pick up along the way that might serve as pointers. And right now those signs pretty much seem to indicate that things are starting to get better again.
Look at Walmart. It has been the absolute darling of the retail world the past 18 months, outperforming just about everybody else just about everywhere. When times are tough, its “Low Prices. Always” slogan resonates loud and clear with shoppers and the company does well.
When the boys from Bentonville released their last quarterly numbers a few weeks back, they continued to be strong, but there was a caveat attached to those results about the company’s future performance. Analysts looking at those numbers were concerned whether Walmart could hang on to the customers it has gained this past year as things improved and shoppers began trading up again. The stock price took a hit accordingly.
On the flip side, Whole Foods, the supermarket chain that caters to a more upscale customer and that has been taking some body blows during the economic meltdown, had good news in its recent financial results. It showed a comp-store sales gain of 3.5 percent for the past three months and said it expected similar, if not better, results for the rest of 2010.
Of course, its stock price had a nice uptick as a result.
Now, two quarterly results for two stores do not a trend make, but you have to look at this as two sides of the same coin. It’s a coin that has been coming up tails for quite some time, but that is increasingly starting to land on heads.
We are not out of this financial mess by any means. Until unemployment starts to decline in a meaningful way and until the housing market has consistently positive numbers, we’re not going to see a real rebound.
But as you’re walking the aisles of McCormick today, try to step a little livelier and take a little more aggressive approach for your business because things are on the upswing.
And watch out for the pendulum.
Editor’s note: This column was originally printed in the Housewares Show Daily, March 15, 2010.