Overheard On Wall Street: Retailers Optimistic; What Easter ’16 Taught Us

The jobless rate was top of mind today for Wall Street as the latest Department of Labor report showed that unemployment levels rose slightly in March, to 5 percent, from 4.9 percent in February and January. Even with the minimal rise, unemployment remains low and signals a slowly improving economy.

Still, other factors such as record low oil prices, unstable weather and the minimum-wage debate continue to weigh on investors and market watchers.

Outside of the usual marketplace headlines, here are a few buzz items FN’s business editor overheard this week.

CBC’s Survey Finds Retail Optimism For 2016

Financial services firm Capital Business Credit released the findings of a survey of 30 retail importers and manufacturers that supply approximately $800 million in goods at retail outlets throughout the United States.

The results indicate that 75 percent of these suppliers expect retail sales to significantly outpace the gross domestic product for the spring and summer shopping season, according to the report.

The majority of those surveyed believe that 2016 will either be better than or the same as 2015, while 46 percent believe that the spring/summer seasons will be stronger than last year, and 38.6 percent believe it will remain the same.

While retail sales for January and February were lower than initially anticipated, this hasn’t seemed to deter retail suppliers’ confidence or business activity,” said Andrew Tananbaum, executive chairman of CBC. “In fact, nearly 90 percent of importers and suppliers are reporting reorders for the spring/summer shopping season. Retailers have become increasingly reticent to stock shelves if they do not believe products will sell or consumers will buy. These reorders mean that the major retail chains and individual stores are optimistic.”

According to the report, the majority of retailers (78 percent) have either increased their number of orders or kept them the same. About half (49.1 percent) indicated that they have actually increased their orders.

ShopperTrak Analyzes Easter Weekend Trends

Retail analytics firm ShopperTrak said its analysis of Easter retail trends over the past three years has yielded three major takeaways.

More retailers had storewide sales this year than they did in 2015; on average, this Easter’s discounts were slightly lower than last Easter’s; and discounting trends (over the past three years) closely follow shifting holiday calendars.

ShopperTrak found that despite significant calendar shifts — Easter fell one week earlier this year versus the prior year — one week before Easter (as opposed to two weeks before) has consistently seen the biggest increase in promotional activity during the past three years.

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