By: Ellen Liburt

Newspapers Take Wait-and-See Approach

Christmas, it seems, came in January this year for many of the
nation’s retailers. After the most disappointing holiday season
in a decade, sales this month brought some pleasant surprises.

“[A]t the present time,” said Kurt Barnard, president of
Barnard’s Retail Consulting Group in Upper Montclair, N.J.,
“there is no indication that the economy is collapsing at all.”
In fact, Barnard said he expects January same-store sales to top
last year’s growth by 3%. Last year’s sales rose roughly 6% over
the previous year.

Did newspapers benefit from retailers’ need to move mountains of
inventory after lackluster holiday sales?

Gordon Prouty, director of retail advertising for Philadelphia
Newspapers Inc., said he’s not clear what January’s better-than-
expected consumer spending means for newspaper retail ad sales,
since retailers seem to be doing well with clearance merchandise,
which tends to be very low margin. Prouty hasn’t seen an increase
in run-of-press ads thus far, and is forecasting ad sales that
are flat or “a little behind a year ago” for the first quarter.

Roy Sheppard, retail advertising director of the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, said retailers remain hesitant about
investing more in promotions after a rough fourth quarter. If the
economy does pick up, he noted, “retailers – who plan 60 to
90 days out – by and large aren’t going to start spending
money next week,” but more likely in March or April (when more
people shop and a new fashion season begins.)

Ellen Liburt (eliburt@editorandpublisher.com) is a reporter for E&P.

Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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