Five Outsider Questions for Retail CEOs

Shortly after Macy’s Inc. kicks off first-quarter retail earnings season with its latest financial results today, chief executive officer Jeff Gennette will submit himself for his quarterly conference call grilling by Wall Street analysts.
The questions are usually staid and often numbers-driven. This time through, the backdrop is mixed: The Census Bureau said Tuesday that fiscal first-quarter department store sales fell 1.1 percent year-over-year, while apparel and accessories specialty stores logged a 4.1 percent gain.
If Macy’s bears up to the Street’s projections — calling for earnings per share of 35 cents, up from 24 cents a year ago, and a 1 percent rise in sales to $5.39 billion — Gennette should have an easy go of it.
The chances are almost nil that he will follow the lead of iconoclast and Tesla Inc. ceo Elon Musk, who alienated Wall Street this month by answering a pressing question about the company’s capital requirements, by replying: “Boring bonehead questions are not cool. Next.”
But as the call for Macy’s fades into parleys with the top brass at Walmart Inc., J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Nordstrom Inc. on Thursday and many more in the weeks ahead, there will surely be a few “boring” and maybe some

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