Things Are Changing In The World Of Retail

For many years, Lord & Taylor sat at the corner of Fifth Ave and 38th Street in New York City. You would think that in the world of high-income earners in the City, the store would continue to prosper as it has for so many years. Unfortunately that has not been the case.

Fox News is reporting today that Lord & Taylor is planning to close its Fifth Avenue location. The windows at Lord & Taylor were one of the highlights of a trip to New York City during the Christmas season. I attended school in New York City and always looked forward to seeing the windows at Christmastime.

The article reports:

Lord & Taylor plans to close its longtime flagship in January after one last blowout sale. Next year, the 11-story, Italian Renaissance-style building covering a whole city block will be taken over by WeWork, the workspace leasing company.

About 40 Lord & Taylor branches will continue on elsewhere. Holiday window gazers will have to turn to competitors like Saks, Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman, which competed with Lord & Taylor every year for the most eye-popping display.

The article explains changes in retail sales:

The demise of the Fifth Avenue store fits into the bigger picture of a shifting economy in which brick-and-mortar retail has taken a hit from online sales.

In June, Hudson’s Bay Co., the Canadian behemoth that has owned Lord & Taylor since 2012, announced it was closing various stores due to the company’s “increasing focus on its digital opportunity and commitment to improving profitability.”

WeWork and several investors aim to close the $850 million deal to buy the Fifth Avenue building by the end of January.

Founded in 1826 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Lord & Taylor became one of the nation’s first big department stores, run by two English-born cousins, Samuel Lord and George Washington Taylor. The store occupied several locations before opening at Fifth Ave and 38th Street in 1914 in a regal home that included a concert hall with a pipe organ, elaborate dining rooms, a gymnasium, and a doctor’s and dentist’s office.

Lord & Taylor established itself as a pioneer of holiday windows by adding motion to what had been static displays. During an unseasonably warm November in 1938, Lord & Taylor created a snow “blizzard” behind glass using cornflakes, with signs announcing “It’s coming! Sooner or later!”

Saks Fifth Avenue soon emulated Lord & Taylor with its own crowd-pleasing display. Other department stores followed. Over the years, the displays became a creative arms race, featuring the most lavish, fantastical holiday scene designers could imagine.

Theoretically this is progress, but Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue was a beautiful store, and it will be missed.

Why Is The Good Economic News Always Unexpected When A Republican Is President?

Yesterday The Conservative Treehouse posted an article about the July Retail Sales Report.

The article reports:

The Commerce Department – Economic and Statistics Administration – released the figures from July 2018 retail sales today (full pdf available here), showing an incredibly strong .5% increase in spending in July, bringing a 6.4% increase year-over-year;  and the results have dropped the jaws of the “experts”:

“Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales nudging up 0.1 percent in July.” (link)

“Retail spending in the United States increased a half-percent during the month of July — well beyond what experts predicted.” (link)

“U.S. retail sales rose more than expected in July as households boosted purchases of motor vehicles and clothing, suggesting the economy remained strong” (link)

The article explains the reason for the growth:

As a direct result of President Trump’s multifaceted economic strategy, manufacturing companies are having to look at TCO which is “Total Cost of Ownership”. You see, President Trump is not only approaching manufacturing growth policy from the trade-agreement and investment side, his policies also approach the larger impacts on raw material, energy and labor.

This multi-pronged policy approach forces companies to look at transportation and location costs of manufacturing. In combination with more favorable tax rates; if domestic costs of material and energy drop, in addition to drops in regulatory and compliance costs of operating the business, the total operating cost differences drop dramatically.

This means labor and transportation costs become a larger part of the consideration in “where” to manufacture. All of these costs contribute to the TCO. Transportation costs are very expensive on durable goods imported. If the durable goods are made domestically, the transportation costs per unit shipped drop significantly. The TCO analysis then further reduces to looking at labor.

U.S. Labor is more expensive, yes. However, if material costs, energy costs, regulatory costs, taxes and transportation costs are part of the TCO equation – then higher labor costs can be offset by the previously mentioned savings.

Economic policies matter. If you want to see this kind of growth continue, elect conservative Republicans to Congress in November. If you want to see this kind of growth come to a screeching halt, elect Democrats–they will take back the tax cuts, put back the regulations, and move to impeach the President. At that point, we will have at least two years of the same economic disaster we saw under President Obama.

Why Did The Economy Turn Around In Less Than A Year?

On Wednesday, The Observer posted an article titled, “How Trump Got the Economy Booming in Less Than a Year.” That’s a question we need to answer if we are going to continue the boom.

The article reports some of the economic successes:

Early into his administration, Trump’s policies are already restoring growth. Real GDP grew 3.1 percent in the last quarter, up more than 50 percent from the average for the eight years that Obama was president.

In Trump’s first six months in office, more than a million new jobs were created, driving unemployment down to a 16-year low. The stock market set 34 new record highs, with headlines just last week screaming “Dow Races Through 23,000.”

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to nearly a 16-year high, as did Bloomberg’s Consumer Comfort Index, both contributing to soaring retail sales. The National Association of Manufacturers Outlook Survey rocketed to a record 91.4 percent, the highest two quarter average for manufacturing optimism in the survey’s 20-year history. The Institute for Supply Management reported it’s barometer of manufacturing rose to 57.8, with over 50 indicating expansion of the manufacturing sector.

So how did this happen. Part of the reason for the growth is the promise of pro-growth tax reform based on the Reagan model of lower marginal tax rates. But there is another reason–based on actions, not promises–deregulation.

The article explains:

Trump has already made a lot of progress in removing Obama’s boot on the neck of American energy producers. That is why U.S. shale oil production has already soared to record levels since Trump entered office.

America today has the resources to lead the world as the top producer worldwide of oil, natural gas and coal. Removing America from the Paris Climate Accord, the start of the demise of Obama’s so-called “Clean Power Plan,” and Trump’s ongoing dismantling of the anti-American energy regulation of Obama’s EPA has already liberated America’s energy producers to assume these world leading roles.

Any economy with the world’s number one oil producing industry, number one natural gas producing industry, and number one coal producing industry is going to be leading the world with booming economic growth. And not just in energy but in manufacturing too. Because manufacturing is an energy intensive activity.

The article concludes:

The House and Senate have now passed budgets providing for many of the spending reductions proposed in Trump’s budget. Contrary to outdated Keynesian economics, government spending detracts from rather than adds to the economy, draining resources from the productive private sector, which is why Obama’s “stimulus” never worked.

In the 2010 and 2014 elections, voters decisively expressed what they think of the Keynesian doctrine that increased deficits and government debt contribute to economic recovery and restored growth. Voters first obliterated the House Democrat majority in 2010 and then took away the Senate Democrat majority in 2014.

Wait until America gains the reality of pro-growth tax reform. When it further restores booming recovery, voters will feel vindicated in their judgements and continue their support for the economic policies of the Trump administration.

I am not convinced that all of the voters will be smart enough to realize what has happened to the economy this year. Unfortunately, we have a bloc of voters who will be more concerned with whether or not the government will continue to pay them not to work. Part of the challenge in growing America’s economy is restoring America’s work ethic. That is part of the foundation of the change that needs to come.