Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: More good news about rebounding consumers

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SHOPPERS2Check out the latest encouraging news about U.S. shoppers dusting themselves off and shelling out their hard earned cash again.

U.S. consumers spent more in February than expected, despite buying fewer cars and being stuck at home shoveling record amounts of snow in many parts of the country.  The U.S. Commerce Department said on Friday that total retail sales rose 0.3 percent, from necessities to luxury items. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales rose a bigger than expected 0.8 percent in February.

This comes on top of better than expected February sales reported last week at many top U.S. retail chains.

And more improvement is yet to come as U.S. consumers pay off debt and fix their collective balance sheets, freeing up more cash to go shopping, according to a Wall Street Journal report this morning.

Olympic Gold for Coke, McDonald’s and Visa

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rings1When is Olympic sponsorship money well spent? A Performance Research poll shows it may depend on how the funds are used.

Coke, McDonald’s and Visa dominate consumer awareness when it comes to the Olympics, according to a study by the Rhode Island-based research firm that evaluates the sponsorship industry.

Check Out Line: Smithfield Foods back in the black

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Check out Smithfield Foods turning a quarterly profit for the first time since 2008.

Smithfield hamThe company — probably best known by consumers for brands such as Butterball — also said its hog unit should improve in the fiscal year that starts this May, after being a drag on results for some time.

Check Out Line: Madonna goes back-to-school

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Check out the big M’s: Madonna and Macy’s. ROMANIA/

What could possibly say “back-to-school”  more in 2010 than a fashion line named after song released in 1985.

That’s what licensing and marketing firm Iconix is developing for Macy’s, in collaboration with rock icon Madonna and her daughter, Lourdes.

Check Out Line: Snow’s impact in the eye of beholder

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snow1Check out the the bad and the good of the severe weather last month.

In the bad camp are restaurant chains Ruby Tuesday and Burger King, which both blamed the bad weather for keeping diners away.

Squarely in the good camp was sporting goods retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods, which posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit on strong demand for cold weather gear.

Depend goes upscale with new undergarments

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Kimberly-Clark, which already launched separate versions of its Depend disposable underwear for incontinence for men and women, is updating the line again in April.  This time, it hopes to boost sales with pricier products for consumers who still want to wear real underwear, or at least look like they are doing so.

Depend womenDepend menThe new Depend variety packs look more like traditional underwear and are packaged more like the cotton underwear often sold in packages.  That way, perhaps shoppers who buy them — with a suggested price of $5.99 to $6.99 for a pack of six — will not feel as embarrassed, Kimberly-Clark asserts.

Check Out Line: McDonald’s February sales rise

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BRITAIN/Check out McDonald’s overseas boost.

February sales at McDonald’s restaurants open at least 13 months rose 4.8 percent, even though such sales rose just 0.6 percent in the United States.

The world’s biggest hamburger chain attributed some of the gain to Chinese New Year celebrations. Same-store sales jumped 10.5 percent in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) region.

Check Out Line: Clouds lift ever more slightly on consumer confidence

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SHOPPERSCheck out more signs of improving consumer confidence.

According to a study released this week by Discover Financial Services U.S. consumers were getting more comfortable with their budgets.  Also, slightly more consumers now believe they’d have money leftover after paying their bills to have fun with, hinting that consumers won’t be scrimping and saving quite as much.

“After months of cutbacks, we’ve seen two months in a row now in which consumer spending intentions appear to have stabilized,” said Julie Loeger, senior vice president of brand and product management for Discover, in explaining the findings.

TJX blames Canada … and its Olympics

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OLYMPICS-ICE HOCKEY/There is always something getting in the way of rising sales.  In the United States, retailers blamed record-setting snow on the East Coast for curbing a spike in February sales

Up in Canada, people were too riveted watching their athletes win a record 14 gold medals, as well as flying moose and beavers, at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in February to go shopping.

Check Out Line: February sales strong despite snow

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Check out the return of the shopper.  Even at Abercrombie & Fitch.

snowSeveral U.S. retailers showed off strong sales gains — albeit over an ugly February 2009 — despite the winter storms that bashed the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and other parts of the United States.

It’s too early to declare a major rebound yet, analysts said, but the sales gains signal that consumers are heading back to stores for more than just the essentials these days.

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