Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Food companies serve up tasty results

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hershey1Check out the better-than-expected results being served up by food companies.

Chocolate maker Hershey posted a quarterly profit above analysts’ expectations, said it was on target to meet its 2010 earnings forecast and boosted its dividend. The company also said it would boost advertising to try to sell more candy, including Almond Joy and York peppermint patties.

Meanwhile, Archer Daniels Midland, one of the largest processors of corn and soybeans, saw its profit slip 2 percent, but the results still topped analysts’ forecasts, and Pepsi Bottling also topped Wall Street’s view as productivity improvements offset a dip in sales. Fruit and vegetable producer Dole Food reported a higher fourth-quarter profit and paid down debt.

Outside the food and beverages sector, Whirlpool’s profit more than doubled on cost cuts and improving sales and the world’s biggest appliance maker offered a stronger-than-expected 2010 forecast. Women’s clothing retailer Ann Taylor said its fourth quarter earnings would top expectations.

Nevertheless, investors have been giving overall U.S. earnings a big yawn up to now, and consumers are saving more and spending less according to the IMF. On the plus side, global employment services company Manpower reported a higher-than-expected profit and said job trends were improving around the world, suggesting the economic recovery would be sustained.

Check Out Line: Predicting Valentine’s Day spending

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VALENTINE-BRUSSELS/Check out differing projections for spending on Valentine’s Day.

For you romantics out there who gauge the strength of your love by an annual showering of flowers, chocolate and jewelry on Valentine’s Day — you might want to adjust your expectations.

This year, couples plan to spend an average of $63.34 on gifts for their significant other or spouse, down nearly 6 percent from $67.22 last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2010 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. At the same time, the average person plans to spend $5.37 on their friends, up 13 percent from $4.74 last year.

Chavez puts a damper on U.S. earnings season

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CHAVEZVenezuela President Hugo Chavez has rained on the U.S. consumer goods parade.

His government’s decision this month to devalue the Venezuela bolivar promises to hurt the profits of many leading U.S. consumer products makers this year even as they seem to be turning a corner.

On Friday, Newell Rubbermaid said the devaluation – which basically creates a two-tiered system that sells U.S. dollars for 4.3 bolivars in one market, and a separate parallel market where the greenback is going for about 6 bolivars- would shave 4-5 cents per share off of its 2010 earnings, sending its shares down.

Check Out Line: Holiday cheer in Barbie land

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BARBIE/ANNIVERSARYCheck out more Barbie dolls making an appearance under the Christmas tree.

Mattel, the world’s largest toy maker, posted higher than expected profit for its quarter that included the holiday season, boosted by strong demand for its Fashionista Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars.

The company was also helped by tight cost controls and a weak U.S. dollar.

Mattel said worldwide gross sales for Barbie rose 12 percent, while Hot Wheels jumped 16 percent.

from DealZone:

Why retailers are avoiding bankruptcy (or lessons from Circuit City)

Struggling retailers are staying as far away from bankruptcy courts as possible this year after being traumatized by a slew of liquidations in 2008 and having a general feeling that the bankruptcy code is unfair to them.

While the most recent holiday shopping season was better than 2008, some retailers whose holiday was only so-so, could benefit from being able to reduce their size or get out of onerous leases in bankruptcy.

Check Out Line: The slow return of the splurge

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Check out signs that consumers are getting more comfortable with spending and, at times, even splurging.

Estee Lauder reported a far better-than-expected 62 percent jump in quarterly profit and boosted its full-year forecast as consumers began to splurge on cosmetics after a year-long slide in sales. Results were helped by strong growth in Asia, new products, and a better-than-expected performance in airport stores and in the United States.

Unicorn + Clown = Surprise hit for Walmart

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clownIf the NFL playoff games weren’t filled with enough unexpected action to keep you awake this past Sunday, something else was — a screaming clown.

Walmart aired a new commercial during the games this weekend meant to promote its low prices on party supplies.

Check Out Line: Will Hershey Trust resolve eventually melt?

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Check out Nestle’s waiting game. USA/

It could take years, but analysts in Europe think that Nestle is waiting for the pressure of competing with two confectionery giants on its home turf to eventually melt Hershey’s resolve, letting Nestle buy the Pennsylvania-based chocolate maker.

While Pennsylvania law says the state’s attorney general would have to approve any deal that dilutes the Hershey Trust’s control over the candy maker, analysts think that eventually the trust will have to look at a Nestle bid.

Women cut back more than men, survey says

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Gender differences are playing out at stores and restaurants across the country, economically speaking.

shopping bagMore women than men cut spending “moderately to significantly” last year – 72 percent of women versus 62 percent of men – according to a new survey being released by Empathica.

from MediaFile:

No Super Bowl blues; expect big TV ratings

colts1The U.S. economy might be weak, but the Super Bowl still scores with consumers.

The CBS broadcast of the National Football League's championship game on Feb. 7 between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints should draw strong TV ratings, possibly challenging viewer levels not seen since the late 1990s.

"We're looking at a big rating," said Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president and head of his own sports consulting firm. "The fact that the two conference championships got better than usual ratings usually indicates that there's a lot of public interest."

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