Checkout counter-cyclical?

Is Lucky’s Wal-Mart version helping their shoppers discover better places to spend their money?

Checkout counter-cyclical? Knowing my fascination with Wal-Mart, one of this weblog’s seven readers (who is not a fan of the big box retailer) just e-mailed me a link to a Daniel Gross “Moneybox” piece on regarding the surprising news that Wal-Mart announced its early Christmas sales are lower than projected. Does this mean the consumer-sector of the economy is hitting the skids? Apparently not, as other retailers are reporting optimistic, even robust, numbers, according to sources like which reported that, overall, retail “sales for the week ending November 27 as compared to the same period in 2003 were up a healthy 11.6 percent. (ShopperTrack did note an “erratic weekend” that included a robust Friday and an off Saturday.)

Daniel Gross wonders if this sales disappointment from Wal-Mart means that its potential for growth has run out of steam.

However, I’m guessing (and it’s a complete guess) that a flat Wal-Mart performance vs. an improvement in overall retail performance suggests shoppers feel better about the economy. Perhaps those who “scaled back” the last few years and flocked to Wal-Mart and Sam’s are tip-toeing up-scale this season. No doubt, they’ll stick to Wal-Mart for the basics and commodities, but perhaps this year (at least early on), the word “Wal-Mart” is not popping to shoppers’ heads when they think, “splurge.”

But don’t pay too much attention to my guess, as my other theory is that Wal-Mart shoppers have been purchasing copies of that Wal-Mart version of Lucky Magazine and instead of reading the special Wal-Mart section, they are discovering there are other hipper places to shop. (Note: I don’t really have that theory — it’s a joke, people.)

No surprise to rexblog readers – Martha (the magazine) rebounding

No surprise to rexblog readers – Martha (the magazine) rebounding: I guess I can’t say, “I’m not one to say, ‘I told you so,'” as I continually disprove that claim on this weblog. So, as one who never misses the chance to say, “I told you so,” I am happy to point to this AP story (via


In a sign that many consumers aren’t concerned by Martha Stewart’s personal legal travails, readers of her flagship magazine are renewing their subscriptions at a pace well ahead of industry norms. That faithful readership may help encourage the return of advertisers who haven’t demonstrated the same loyalty since the magazine’s eponymous founder became tainted by a stock-trading scandal in June 2002. Nearly 70 percent of Martha Stewart Living subscribers said they planned to renew their subscriptions, according to a September survey conducted for WPP Group PLC’s Mediaedge:cia. The renewal rate is 19 percent better than the magazine industry average, an analysis by circulation consultancy Capell & Associates found.

As I’ve said on numerous occasions, including this from an August, 2002, post, “Magazines die when they lose touch with their readers and lose all relevance to the audience they have built. Thus, Rosie Magazine will die, but Martha Stewart (as it is a great magazine loved by its readers) will outlive the current unpleasantness.”

Real-time fear

Real-time fear: The last few moments at Hammock Publishing have opened my eyes to what so many families and friends must live through when they are close to someone they know who could be a victim of a tragedy playing out in the news. One of our clients, an Army Reserve blackhawk helicopter pilot, was recently called up and is preparing to deploy to Kosovo. Currently, he is stationed at Fort Hood, Tex., so when news of a blackhawk crash there hit the news services, we naturally became personally engaged in following the story. Fortunately, our friend is safe and quickly notified folks back at his civilian job, so our worst-fears were allayed after only a few moments. Now, my thoughts are with the family and friends of those not so lucky…and those with loved ones in harm’s way who must live constantly with such reactions to wars and tragedies reported to the world in real-time.