Shoptalk 2023: How retail CEOs are weighing trends in the retail sector, U.S. banking crisis

Yahoo Finance’s Brian Sozzi joins the Live show from the Shoptalk 2023 event in Las Vegas, NV, to discuss how retail CEOs are weighing trends in the retail sector, the latest business trends, the impact of a slowing economy, and the U.S. banking crisis.

Video Transcript

BRAD SMITH: The country's major retailers from Foot Locker to Walmart are in Las Vegas this week for the huge annual industry event called Shoptalk. Yahoo Finance's executive editor Brian Sozzi is there at the Mandalay Bay in the center of all the action and hitting some tables later I hear, allegedly, on the streets. But for right now, he's talking to all the big retail CEOs about the latest business trends, the impact of slowing economy, and the banking crisis, much more. Brian, what are you hearing over there?

BRIAN SOZZI: Well, as they would say, Mr. Smith, no comment on whether I will be hitting the tables and the slot machines later. Nonetheless, you're right. We are here in Shoptalk, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas-- over 10,000 people here at this conference, close to 300 senior-level executives here, mostly in the retail space, but a lot of focus here on technology.

You walk behind me here. There's a large installation center-- hundreds of demos and installations-- really giving consumers and other people at this conference a good snapshot in the future of retail. Seeing a lot of artificial intelligence. That is being talked up a lot. Also, believe it or not, despite it being an old technology, mobile pay-- PayPal's out there on the floor as well.

Now speaking of all this, I actually got to catch up with Pinterest CEO Bill Ready. He's very focused on trying to make his platform more shoppable, as if you go on to a Pinterest, you see an outfit that you like, you can click through and buy it. But he's also very focused and keeping his eyes on what's happening at TikTok and what may not happen at TikTok. Now I asked him his views on that platform and what he thought would happen to his business if TikTok was banned in the US.

BILL READY: I think with social media broadly, this question of how do you make sure that it's additive and not addictive, how do you make sure that people feel better after having spent time with it, is really important. And we think that's our role to play because there's been lots of research that has shown that as people spend more and more time on social media, they have rising rates of anxiety, rising rates of depression. People feel worse after having spent time there. And that very same research consistently shows that after spending time on Pinterest, people feel better after time on Pinterest. That's not an accident. That's intentional.

BRIAN SOZZI: Now, Bill, he declined to say whether if TikTok were to be banned here in the US if they would see a pickup in users, but of course, you would have to think if there is no TikTok, a platform like a Pinterest, a Snap, and of course, Instagram and Facebook theoretically would see an improvement in users. But again, right now the focus for Bill Ready at Pinterest is making that platform more shoppable and continue on what he has been telling me, focusing on a more positive social media experience on Pinterest.

- That is really interesting stuff, Sozz, that that is that deliberate and that they're trying to sort of make that a differentiator. Taking a step back, you wrote this morning in the Morning Brief about the sort of disconnect seemingly between maybe some of the consumer-facing companies, the CEOs, and their vibe and what we're seeing in the broader economy. I mean, I don't know if that's just sort of comes with the territory of being at a conference where they're all talking to each other, but as you get further into it, what is the sort of tone like?

BRIAN SOZZI: Well, you're right, Julie. Who wants to tell media that, oh, that the sky is falling and oh, we're going to miss our quarter? No one. But it is interesting.

Like I wrote in the Morning Brief newsletter this morning, there is still this optimism out there amongst CEOs and executives. I'm feeling it here. I asked Bill Ready over Pinterest, Pinterest CEO, if the ad market winter is starting to thaw. He did tell me ad demand is choppy, but I did sense a slight shift in tone from Bill relative to when we talked last month, maybe a little bit of an improvement.

And I also talked to Chewy's CEO Sumit Singh. We'll have that interview in the 11:00 hour. He said consumers are pulling back on discretionary items, but overall his business continues to do very well. I would venture to say when I talked to Foot Locker CEO Mary Dillon, a little bit later on she will come out positive as well in her business, maybe as she should. The sneaker business continues to do very well in large part because of purchases by Brad Smith.

BRAD SMITH: That's very true actually. It tracks very well. I'm probably my own individual line within their own balance sheet. I trust that for sure. Brian, make sure you stay nourished out there. Get some Uncrustables. If they're good enough for Sam Burns, they're good enough for us too-- us mere mortals.