Numbers Numbers Everywhere but

I follow a number of retail blogs, the NRF daily report and various other sources of retail trends. Having said that I a bit confused. All the numbers have implications, but which ones are really the most accurate indicators. Here a list of last months retail sales by category:

Vehicles- +1.6%          Building material +1.4%       Electronics +1%

Sporting Goods +1%   Clothing +1.8   Hospitality +0.8%

Majors retailers reported a year over year gain of  +3.5%

TJX  +10%     Gap +8%     Nordstrom + 8.6%   Target + 7.3%

Fortune 500 US corporations are reporting their highest profits since the beginning of the recession. They are also holding more cash and have less dept than since 2007. Unemployment is gradually trending  downward, also a positive sign. Now you’ve got to factor in the Euro crisis and I’m back to being flummoxed.  Let me share with you my go to resource for cutting through the cutter and coming to grips with all the conflicting indicators.

I have coffee most mornings when I’m not traveling with a truly electic group of  friends and business associates. The group is composed of bankers, lawyers, doctors, and mix of business owners. Politically they run the full spectrum from left to right. The conversations are lively and provocative but more importantly they provide some great insight. In general the attitude has shifted from pessimism to guarded optimism. The overall sense is that they weathered the storm and now feel it’s time to start growing their businesses again.  This is the consumer confidence indicator at a grass-roots level. Personally I’m receiving more calls from retailers who have postponed projects and are now giving stong consideration to jump starting the projects.  I realize that my coffee klatch and client feedback  is not a big control group but it does represent feedback from a good mix of small businesses. When it’s all said and done the confidence of the small businesses will drive the recovery.