Ispoke recently at a U.S.-based company started nearly 65 years ago. The co-founders began their business mak- ing stretchers/gurneys to more easily
lift and load caskets and patients—a simple
steel “X” that folded up and down. One of
the co-founders told me he argued early on
with his partner about raising the price
of a gurney to $169. His partner resisted,
saying, “No client could afford that!”
Today, the company sells into 157 coun-
tries around the world. In production is a
stretcher that will sell for close to $20,000,
composed of carbon fiber and installed with
technology in and on the frame that will
collect patient data and instantly forward
it to the ER and an attending physician.
The “cot” has remote controls that move it
up and down stairs and into the ambulance
with no jerky motions. I thought, “Who is
going to buy a gurney for $20,000?” The
prototypes are already selling like hotcakes.
2013—BET TER THAN REPORTED
There were a lot of gloomy predictions
about retail sales prior to the holiday season ending and some mistaken reports in
early January. We were offered many reasons why results would not be good. The
shopping season was six days shorter—
four weekends not five; stormy weather on
three weekends killed any chance of success; and the year would end poorly because
the back-to-school sales had not been
promising. And, consumers would desert brick and mortar for online shopping.
Really? The year may have ended on a sour
note for Target (and Neiman Marcus), UPS,
and JCPenney, but not because of a short-
ened season, weather, lackluster consumer
spending, or an insatiable technology tiger.
Year-end data offers a more positive picture
for the retail environments industry than
is often reported.
Retail Sales (ex. auto/gas, inflation
adjusted) in the fourth quarter compared
to the same quarter in 2012 rose 4. 5 percent (not seasonally adjusted). That is a
healthy quarterly growth rate for retail
sales and well above the 20-year average quarterly rate of 2. 5 percent. The last
time we saw a fourth quarterly year-over-year comparison better than 2013’s was
in 2003. In addition, Annual Retail Sales
(inflation adjusted) is at a record high.
A look at the chart reflects growth that is
balanced across most sectors. Spending by
the American consumer drives two-thirds
of U.S. GDP and consumers have been
a steady force behind the U.S. recovery,
despite facing enormous obstacles.
One of weakest sectors was General
Merchandise spending. A bad omen?
According to an IBM Analytics report,
department stores in 2013 saw the largest
increase in online purchases, up 63 percent. That is a giant leap forward, considering that online sales overall were up 10
percent over last year. It is clear that brick-and-mortar stores are adapting to the new
2014 Shapes Up for
G ROW T H
What has been mild and uneven growth in recent years is, in 2014,
shifting to stronger, steadier growth across the broad economy By Dr. Jeff Dietrich
2013 retail sales rang in better than expected, with a 4. 5 percent increase over fourth
quarter 2012 retail sales. The last time a fourth quarterly year-over-year comparison was
better than 2013’s was in 2003.
RETAIL SALES 4Q 2013 compared to 4Q 2012
sporting goods store
automotive parts stores
general merchandise stores
bldg materials, garden, supplies
misc stores including office supply stores
excluding autos & gas stations
health and personal care stores
beer, wine & alcoholic beverage
0% 2% 4% 6% 8% 10%