The business of retailing is looking up --- and down.
Prada's big sales boosts are coming from Asia. Profit is up 72% and their big shoppers even in Europe are Asian tourists.
H & M reports that their first quarter grew 4.6%. They're the world's number two fashion chain and their strategy is to absorb higher costs instead of passing them on in higher prices. H & M sales in the U.S. are doing great, up 30%. Their plans are to open 275 new stores worldwide this year.
Best Buy, on the other hand, isn't doing so well, and will be making big changes because of changes in consumer habits. Many shoppers have been going to Best Buy to compare products and prices, then going online to a competitor such as Amazon to make the purchase. Best Buy will be closing 50 of its stores and experimenting with smaller, mobile-phone focused stores.
Sears is in the news, too, trying to sell Land's End, which it purchased a few years ago. Land's End sales are flat.
What does this mean for manufacturers? For one thing, low-priced store brands are winning. Because of these economic times, more people have been experimenting with store brands, and deciding peas are peas. Stores are now bringing on more "premium priced" private labels, to compete with national brands. Fine apparel retailers, such as Saks, have been doing the same thing, and it's working for them.
On the other hand, many products (such as television sets) are almost commodities these days. No big differences in brands, features, minor differences in prices.
What does all this say for a career in retailing? It's an exciting time of change and adventurous directions. In fashion, the future looks great if you're open to new ideas, new ways of selling. Keep your eye on Uniqlo. They're doing great in New York, will be opening a San Francisco store in the fall, and will offer online shopping as well. What they will do to Gap is the big question.
Read all you can, keep up on the business news. And take your eyes off the cash register and focus on the customer.