Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

from MacroScope:

Sears chairman to Uncle Sam: Step aside

Edward Lampert, the hedge fund manager who took over discount retailer Kmart and later bought Sears, has some strong words for the U.S. government.

In his letter to shareholders, released on Tuesday, Lampert weighed in on some of the hottest topics in Washington, including job creation, health care reform, and taxes. Here's what he had to say:

"Sears Holdings shares the stated goal of many public officials of creating jobs. But, we don't believe that we need large government programs to generate these jobs. Public officials often fail to recognize the obstacles they place in the way of job creation. For example, over the past year proposal after proposal has been put forward to reform health care, reform the financial system, increase taxes, and add regulations, all with the intention of making the United States a better and stronger country. Yet, as a business, trying to understand which of these proposals might become law, what their impact might be on business prospects and competition, and what additional costs they might impose creates a great deal of uncertainty. It has led our management team and board (and I am sure those managements and boards of other companies) to spend inordinate time trying to determine which investments we should make, defer, or cancel and which jobs to create, maintain, or eliminate. The removal of this uncertainty and the constant drumbeat of new threats against various businesses would go a long way to allowing American entrepreneurial energy to be unleashed. " 
 

Check Out Line: Twilight’s return to a burger near you

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USA/Check out Burger King’s bite from the vampire.

The hamburger chain said it will sponsor the third Twilight movieThe Twilight Saga: Eclipse - after the success it saw with its tie-in to the second one, The Twilight Saga: New Moon.

Burger King said fans can expect more exclusive access but was quiet about details.  Last time around, Twihards got goodies such as Bella, Edward and Jacob-themed gift cards and New Moon water bottles.

Check Out Line: Lowe’s sees better days, Campbell, not so much

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LOWESCheck out U.S. demand for remodeling projects rebounding while the appetite for soup cools. 

Rob Niblock, CEO of Lowe’s, said “the worst of the economic cycle is likely behind us” as the home improvement chain reported better-than-expected quarterly results thanks to higher lumber prices and demand for appliances. The chain is optimistically forecasting a sales rise in 2010.

At NY Fashion Week: LVMH invests in next-gen artisans

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Inside a loft at Milk Studios , the DJs pumped up the beat and Champagne flowed as Renaud Dutreil talked about the future of fashion. As the chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc, the North American arm of the world’s largest luxury goods company, Dutreil has a lot invested in the subject.

The scene: A preview show mobbed by photographers and beautiful people.

“Louis Vuitton was an artisan,” Dutreil told Reuters, referring to the French company’s founder. “He worked with his hands. It’s important to transmit this value proposition to the next generation. They are the Web generation.”

Check Out Line: Penney gives market positive surprise

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jcpCheck out the better-than-expected quarterly results and earnings forecast from J.C. Penney.

The department store operator also said same-store sales would improve during 2010 — it expects same-store sales to be flat in the first quarter and up in the “low-single digits” for the full fiscal year.

Check Out Line: Power plays in the air

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walgreen1Check out the power plays going on in the consumer world.

Walgreen said it will buy Duane Reed for $618 million in cash, catapulting the largest U.S. drugstore operator into the top spot in the New York City area. The deal price also includes the assumption of $457 million in debt.

Duane Reed is owned by private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners and operates 257 drugstores in the New York metropolitan area. Duane Reade will continue to operate under its brand name, and Walgreen expects to retain the employees at its stores, pharmacies and distribution centers.

Check Out Line: Have a helping of earnings

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Check out the latest raft of earnings and outlooks kicking off the holiday-shortened week in the consumer world.

kraftKraft Foods, which makes Oreo cookies and Velveeta cheese, posted quarterly revenue that fell short of expectations, but said its recent acquisition of British chocolatier Cadbury would accelerate long-term growth.

Gun rights group + Starbucks = free buzz

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starbucksguys

Want to get a little free publicity for your traditionally conservative cause (the right to openly carry guns in public places)? Target a big, well-known company that caters to so-called latte-sipping liberals (Starbucks).

That’s exactly what open-carry guns rights advocates in California are doing. It’s obviously working, or we in the media wouldn’t be writing about it.

Deals and discounts in vogue this Valentine’s Day

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rosesAs procrastinators (or those who were too busy shoveling last weekend) head out to find a perfect last-minute gift, they may be happy to hear that less is expected this Valentine’s Day. 

Most consumers in romantic relationships don’t plan to spend much, if anything, on Valentine’s Day gifts, according to a new survey from Accenture. That backs up the findings from a National Retail Federation survey, which found that U.S. couples planned to spend 6 percent less on each other this year.

Check Out Line: Cracks in consumer confidence

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Check out consumers’ flagging confidence in February.

Analysts had expected consumer confidence to tick higher — to 75 from 74.4 in late January — but it slipped to 73.7 according to the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers’ preliminary index of sentiment for February.

The February result is an improvement over 56.3 percent a year ago, but consumers remain worried about stubbornly high unemployment and most are looking for no gain in income or home values this year.

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