A confluence of key retail events this month – the annual ProSource Spring Meeting in San Antonio and Walmart’s shareholders’ gathering in Arkansas – provided a rare back-to-back barometer of U.S. consumer sentiment.
Together these merchants serve the full panoply of CE shopper, from the grab-and-go buyer of off-brand TVs to the controlled multi-room A/V aficionado.
Despite their vastly different customer bases and product and service propositions, they do share one thing in common: an increasingly confident consumer who is finally coming back after an eight-year-long winter of discontent.
Dave Workman, president/CEO of ProSource, reported that his specialty dealers enjoyed a cumulative sales spike of 45 percent over the trailing 12 months, a record gain for the buying group and its antecedents.
To be sure, much of the increase can be attributed to new-member additions – notably half-a-dozen heavy hitters from the ranks of NATM – but Workman said growth was also organic.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the economic spectrum, Walmart’s chief marketing officer Stephen Quinn admitted surprise at all the positivity surrounding the discounter’s shoppers. In a reflection of 15 different metrics, including higher wages and lower inflation, gas prices and unemployment, “The customer is feeling positive,” he told reporters on a Walmart store tour near company headquarters. “They’re feeling freed up, and we’re not seeing a pullback in our demographic.”
Could all this change in a New York minute? Certainly. Is vender and dealer profitability still under pressure, as Workman cautioned? Mos def.
But at least for the time being, from the twin vantage points of San Antonio and Bentonville, we see nothing but smooth sailing through Christmas.