Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Rise of the Nonstores

Click to enlarge.

All exponential trends eventually fail. That said, this exponential trend could theoretically fail at infinity should the last department store shutter its doors.

November 14, 2012
Two fund managers disclose stakes in JC Penney

On Friday Penney reported that sales tumbled 26.1 percent during the third quarter, news that sent its shares down some 26 percent in the last five days.

Ackman is staying the course, telling anyone who will listen that when Ron Johnson, the former Apple Inc executive he handpicked to revive Penney, completes his job "you will shop at J.C. Penney."

Bill Ackman clearly doesn't know me. As seen in the following chart, I wonder if he knows retail trade employees any better?

Click to enlarge.

You can't shop without a job. For those keeping track at home, we are 9.4 million retail trade employees below the employment trend that was 51 years in the making. Why? Well, one reason is that nonstore retailers like simply don't need as many employees per dollar of goods sold.

Occupational Outlook Handbook: Retail Sales Workers

Employment of retail salespersons is expected to grow 17 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Good luck on that theory. As seen in the chart above, there's been ZERO growth since 1999. You've got to be pretty darned optimistic to think retail trade employment will miraculously change for the better.

July 19, 2012
JCPenney’s To Eliminate Check-Out Clerks

In an email, a Penny’s spokesman would not say how many jobs would be lost, saying instead this new check-out would actually free employees to help customers in other ways.

I have no doubt that many employees will be freed.

Source Data:
U.S. Census: Monthly Retail Sales
St. Louis Fed: All Employees: Retail Trade


Stagflationary Mark said...

From the last link...

“I don’t want to walk into a place that’s so austere that it’s nothing but mechanics and automation,” he adds. “I like to talk to people, they help me, they ask me, they take me to find things.”

Perhaps Ackman should invest in terminator robot technology that can go out into the community and round up potential customers.

"You WILL shop at J.C. Penney!"
"You WILL shop at J.C. Penney!"
"You WILL shop at J.C. Penney!"

Gallows humor. Sigh.

Mr Slippery said...

You spoiled the plot for Terminator 5.

I had an unfortunate epiphany this week. Shipping and delivery systems are frayed and failing.

We've had all kinds of problems with the USPS and FedEx this year. Lost or stolen packages, inconsistencies in online status and actual status of packages, lost notices, and incorrect products shipped.

Only UPS has not failed us consistently this year. Amazon has been fair, but not great. The hassle of returning an incorrect product is at least 4x greater than going to a retail store and getting the right thing.

I plan to increase my retail shopping in the coming year unless I can get reliable and secure shipping (UPS).

Mr Slippery said...

P.S. I realize that if a company ships an incorrect product, that is not the fault of the delivery company, but it is a problem in the delivery "system". The wrong product picked and shipped is worse than a lost package.

Stagflationary Mark said...

Mr Slippery,

We've had better delivery luck this year. No problems.

My "big" purchase this month was a cheap collapsible dog bowl for our dog on long hikes. I'm just trying to do what I can to keep the partially automated economy partially humming.

(I think it's humming a swan song.)

Stagflationary Mark said...

In other news, I'll be posting the latest initial claims chart later today. I'd do it now but it's been a long night.

I may need to think up a new adjective to describe the danger. Thanks to the hurricane, it's like the mother [nature] of all bad reports. Ouch.

Troy said...

I popped into our JCP store earlier this year.

Looked like a bomb had gone off in it.

To be fair, they were rebuilding the place to match their new look or whatever.

I bought some pants at Costco two years ago. That was my last clothing purchase.

Gee, this brought the idea that Japan's retail market is REALLY screwed going forward.

At least we have a growing youth population, and young people do need replacement clothes as they grow.

Old people as a rule do not need new clothing.

Stagflationary Mark said...


Old people as a rule do not need new clothing.

That's especially true if they've already hoarded t-shirts and socks once real interest rates fell below 0%.

Not saying I know anyone who might have done that, lol. Sigh.

Gallows humor!

Well, sort of. I actually do know someone who did that. Me!