Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: April showers bring May shoppers


Apple Store rainy iPad launch dayCheck out the recent rise in U.S. sales.

U.S. chain store sales rose 3.3 percent last week versus a year ago, according to new data from Redbook.  The sales were also up 0.8 percent in May so far versus April, Redbook’s figures on general merchandise retailers with about 9,000 U.S. stores showed.

That’s a bit brighter than the 0.5 percent rise in April same-store sales we saw last week, based on 28 chains.

Meanwhile, consumers are getting tech-savvy about their food shopping.  Deloitte said that more consumers are turning to their computers to look for deals on food.  According to the firm’s 2010 Consumer Food Safety Survey, 33 percent of people have signed up to get emails, recipes or coupons from food makers, a 6 percentage point rise from just two years earlier.

Deloitte found that food shoppers also feel the quality of store, or private label, brands is better.  Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they are buying store brands because they believe the quality is comparable to national branded foods, up 14 percentage points from 2008. Six percent even said the quality is better than national brands.

Check Out Line: Taking on Starbucks paying off for McDonald’s


RonaldMcDonaldCheck out how the McCafe keeps perking up McDonald’s sales.

Last month, Ronald McDonald and company reported a strong first-quarter profit, showing that their bet on taking on Starbucks on its home turf has paid off.  And judging from McDonald’s April sales, that McCafe business — with its expanded lower-priced roster of coffees and new frappes — continues to caffeinate its results.

In April, sales at restaurants open at least 13 months (same-store sales, in the industry’s shorthand) were up 3.8 percent stateside, and did even better overseas, for a global average of 4.9 percent.

Check Out Line: Consumer Reports lifts warning for Lexus SUV


lexus1Check out Consumer Reports lifting its ‘Don’t Buy: Safety Risk’ designation for Toyota’s 2010 Lexus GX 460 sport utility vehicle.

The well-known consumer magazine said it was changing the rating for that SUV after recall work corrected the problem it displayed in one of its emergency handling tests.

Check Out Line: Consumer earnings offer plenty of good news


drpepperCheck out the better-than-expected earnings reports from several consumer companies.

Dr Pepper Snapple, Sara Lee and TreeHouse Foods reported stronger-than-expected quarterly profits, while Liz Claiborne, Elizabeth Arden and K-Swiss posted smaller-than-expected losses.

Check Out Line: Spitting out brand-name mouthwash


Check out slipping brand loyalty.

The lesson the recession taught many U.S. consumers is that they can do without their favorite brand, valueaccording to a new survey by comScore Inc.

Hardest hit was the mouthwash category, where only 44 percent of those surveyed in March said they buy the brand they most want. That is down from 61 percent in March 2008.

from Dhanya Skariachan:

Check Out Line: A mixed bag of consumer news

Mixed bag

Check out

a mixed bag of results from the consumer world.

Investors looking for yet another clue to gauge the strength of the U.S. consumer spending recovery might find some solace in online retailer Overstock's results and women's apparel retailer Ann Taylor's strong first-quarter outlook.

Overstock, which sells excess inventories of clothing, accessories, furniture and other items, recorded a 42 percent rise in quarterly sales, while Ann Taylor forecast a same-store sales rise of 11 percent in its latest first quarter.

Cash for creative moms


At some point — usually in the middle of the night during the umpteenth feeding/diaper change of their child’s young life — most parents think they have come up with the greatest idea EVER that could revolutionize baby and child care.

HuggiesMomInspiredHuggies wants to give the most inventive moms a bit of a financial boost.  Just in time for Mother’s Day, the diaper brand and parent Kimberly-Clark have set up a grant program called MomInspired.  The goal is to give away up to $15,000 to each woman with a great idea for a baby product.

Check Out Line: Taylor Swift — the new face of Covergirl


MUSIC-COUNTRYAWARDS/Check out country music star Taylor Swift becoming the newest Covergirl.

The songstress, known for her blond ringlets and girl-next-door charm,  has been busy collecting armfuls of accolades. In February, the 20-year-old  won four Grammys and was the youngest artist ever to take home the coveted prize for album of the year. In November, she won four awards from the Country Music Association, which named her entertainer of the year.

Last month, Swift got a mention in People magazine’s “World’s Most Beautiful People” special issue.

Check Out Line: What’s significant?


Check out Avon’s dose of disclosure.

Andrea Jung 2010The world’s top direct seller of cosmetics (led by Chairman and CEO Andrea Jung, shown here) topped analysts’ expectations with its quarterly profit.

It also gave a little more insight into its ongoing investigation about possible bribery in China — which is by far its smallest market, but one with great potential.  The company said fees paid to professionals working on the probe were “significant” in the latest quarter.

Rich guys love their manSpanx for looking thin


neiman-marcusTo the relief of many women (and men for that matter) out there, Spanx introduced its cotton-compression undershirts for men in February this year.

No surprise that a garment that helps hide unsightly potbellies and sagging rear-ends would be a hit. But I admit, I was surprised on a recent trip to Chicago to see Spanx for Men at the Neiman Marcus on Michigan Avenue. I thought, in my naïveté, that that product might be a bit downmarket for Neiman’s upscale male patrons.