It’s hard to imagine a better headline in these recession times than “Sales Fall Sharply for Retailers Not Named Wal-Mart” (NYT, February 5th, 2009). This month, the budget shopping chain continues to lead the reports with “Wal-Mart reports strong rise in sales” (MSNBC News, March 5th, 2009). In a long retail report Wal-Mart is compared to other retailers who fail to show positive profits :

Target Corp.’s same-store sales declined 4.1 percent, Macy’s Inc.’s same-store sales fell 8.5 percent, J.C. Penney Co. Inc.’s 8.8 percent decline and continues to luxury stores, which have been the industry’s worst performers, scrambling to cut inventories to react to plummeting customer demand for $5,000 handbags and $3,000 dresses. Saks Inc. suffered a 26 percent declines,  Neiman Marcus Group Inc. said that same-store sales fell 24.2 percent, Nordstrom Inc. posted a 15.4 percent drop in same-store sales, etc.

If you look closer into Wal-Mart reports you will find out that discounted groceries, and not handbags or dresses, were retailer’s best sellers. My question is how can you compare a store like Wal-Mart to Saks or Gap, where products offered are radically different. Comparing groceries to high fashion items isn’t different from comparing apples to oranges, and has no value except eye-catching recession-friendly headlines, of course…