Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Why retailers can expect modest holiday spending growth

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As the 2012 race to the holidays kicks off, shoppers in America are experiencing economic sobriety.  With 23 million people still looking for work, home prices still down, and those with jobs holding little hope for salary increases, the season is shaping up as a time of controlled spending. Without question, consumer purchases will be made through a lens of affordability.

Still, in the past few weeks I have visited with small groups of shoppers in California, Phoenix, Dallas, New Orleans, northern Pennsylvania, and finally New York City; I found a consensus of hope as the holiday season approaches, and a feeling of thanks at having survived another tough year.

American consumers have grown tired of continuing signs of economic uncertainty. My conversations with American shoppers, as well as earlier consumer research by Booz & Company, indicated several changes that will set the stage for a holiday season that’s focused on affordability:

1. In almost all of our conversations we asked the following question “What will be different about this holiday season over past seasons?”  The overwhelming response was bringing together family and friends to celebrate.

Christie’s sets one wine record, blows another

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Christie’s auction in Geneva on Tuesday claims to have set a world record price for a bottle of red Burgundy. A  U.S. buyer bought the 750 ml bottle of 1945 Romainee-Conti for $123,889.  But the house failed to sell its showcase lot of the auction — 315 bottles representing every vintage from ’45 to ’07 produced by each of the first five growths of Bordeaux.

Meanwhile in New York on Saturday, the star lot – a complete vertical of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild spanning ’45-’07 sold to an Asian collector for $150,000.

Arbitrage in Bordeaux

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New York’s branch of Christie’s is auctioning a collection of 64 bottles of Mouton-Rothschild on Saturday that spans the years 1945-2007.  It’s Geneva branch is auctioning a collection of 315 bottles spanning the same 62 vintages, but from all five first growths including Mouton-Rothschild on Tuesday.  (See story “Mystery collector to sell rare wines” [ID: nN10231397])

Saturday’s lot is selling for between $100,000 and $150,000, while Tuesday’s is estimated to sell for $696,000 to $929,000. And the price difference presents collectors with an arbitrage opportunity.

Food Trucks: The Film

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The fancy food truck revolution rocking the U.S. restaurant scene traces its roots beyond the 2008 launch of Kogi — the Korean-Mexican taco truck that took Los Angeles by storm and tweeted its way to international stardom — to a grittier, working-class movement.

In her bilingual documentary film “Masa Revolution”, veteran Los Angeles journalist Patricia Nazario maps the food truck industry back to the 1960s, when blue-collar entrepreneurs served plastic-wrapped sandwiches, doughnuts and coffee to factory and office workers across Southern California.

Jimmy John’s franchise fires union workers after sick-day campaign

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The owners of 10 Minnesota Jimmy John’s sandwich shops — where a rare unionization vote was narrowly rejected last year – have fired six union organizers.

sickdayposter[1]The terminated workers are members of the Industrial Workers of the World, a formerly high-profile union better known as the Wobblies, and said they were fired after they put up 3,000 posters (shown here) around Minneapolis as part of a campaign to win paid sick days.

from MediaFile:

Will my local Borders store close?

In filing for bankruptcy protection today, Borders Group Inc. said that it plans to close 200 of its 500 superstores nationwide. This has left many book fans wondering: Is my local Borders store going to close?

Here is a map of all the planned closings:

A complete list of planned Borders closures can be found here: Borders Store Closings

Root beer, roast beef, fish & chips: Who’s buying?

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There’s a new batch of quick-service restaurants on the block – Arby’s, A&W and Long John Silver’s – and according to YouGov BrandIndex, A&W is the most popular of the three.

A&W, founded in 1919 and known for its root beer, had the trio’s highest satisfaction rates, said YouGov BrandIndex, which does daily consumer perception research on brands. 

from MediaFile:

Why won’t Amazon say how many Kindles it’s sold?

Something about returning from the Christmas holidays makes people want to show off what they received – a new sweater donned, a new gadget subtly pulled out at meetings, a few extra pounds padding the belly.

Jeff Bezos doesn't like this tradition. He will hint at the generous present that consumers gave to Amazon in the form of surprisingly strong sales, but he won't offer details.

from MediaFile:

Mobile sales are helping eBay, but is it enough?

EBAY/eBay said Wednesday that the value of goods sold in the U.S. through its mobile applications surged 133% to $100 million during the month before Christmas. Globally, the growth was even stronger: Up 166% to $230 million worth of goods.

That is good news from one angle. eBay is having success using mobile devices to sell goods during the busiest retailing period of the year. But it obscures another fact: Mobile sales may be a growing market, but it's a tiny portion of eBay's overall sales. And overall sales don't appear to be growing nearly as fast.

from Leslie Gevirtz:

Sparkling wine — pouring style without draining your wallet

Earlier this week, I wrote about alternatives to non-vintage and cuvee Champagnes that can lend a festive atmosphere to any occasion. Below is a list of the wines that I mentioned, some alternatives and their suggested U.S. retail prices. Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut  $12 Santa Margherita Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Brut  $17 Freixenet Cordon Rosado $10 Domaine Tselepos Amalia Brut $24 Gruet $14 Dom Perignon $125-$150
Bollinger RD 1997 $130-$150 Krug Brut Grande Cuvee 1998 $180-$200 Giulio Ferrari 1997 $100

There are many other sparklers that didn't make it into the story such as:  Lucien Albrecht ($19), Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco ($19) and The Chook, a sparkling Shiraz from Australia ($17).

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