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Consumers Still in Strong Shape Despite Rising Retail Worries

Despite the fact that major department stores like Macy’s (M) and Nordstrom (JWN) served up less-than-stellar third quarter earnings reports, and the October retail sales number missed Wall Street’s consensus forecast, the American consumer remains robust and ready to spend this holiday season, said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank.'It’s a frustrating environment because it is somewhat uneven, but the consumer tends to be in very good shape right now,' said Wiegand. Wiegand said the consumer is interested in maintaining a healthier personal balance sheet, and is also spending more on experiences compared to clothing. He said restaurants and travel destinations continue to do well, often at the expense of retailers in the local mall. Not helping retailers is the lack of a clear trend, or must-have item for this holiday season. As a result, Wiegand said there is a lot of discounting taking place as retailers struggle to strike the right chord with their clientele. Furthermore, he said the warm autumn weather so far has hurt apparel sales, especially at higher end stores. One area that has not seen a significant drop-off in spending is in big-ticket purchases like cars. Wiegand attributes this to low rates and a more conservative consumer.
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