Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Holiday tips to take hit


haircut1Check out the probable lower level of tips for service providers during the holidays.Chalk up tips for cleaning people, school teachers, barbers, mail carriers and others as another probable victim of the weak U.S. economy, according to a new poll conducted by Consumer Reports magazine.  The magazine polled Americans about their tipping habits during the 2008 holidays and again in October and found 26 percent of Americans who usually tip or give a gift to a service provider said they would spend less this holiday season. Just 6 percent planed to spend more.”Families are looking for ways to balance their financial concerns with the need to thank people who have helped them during the year,” Tobie Stanger, senior editor at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “This year, tipping is more of a challenge than ever, but CR’s survey shows that people are still trying to do it, for the most part.”The average value of tips (i.e. some were gifts instead of cash or gift cards) varied by occupation, with a cleaning person at $50, a child’s teacher and a hairdresser at $20, and a manicurist at $10, according to Consumer Reports.Some readers told the magazine they plan to still say thanks with a card or homemade gift.Also in the basket:Food the focus as Wal-Mart starts holiday givingKraft quarterly results could make a case to CadburyADM profit soars past Wall Street estimatesPolo 2nd-qtr profit tops Street viewWalgreen October sales up a bit more than expectedEnergizer quarterly profit falls(Reuters photo)

Check Out Line: Forecast calls for early Christmas shopping


holiday-window-shoppingCheck out who is shopping early for Christmas.
U.S. consumer are, according to a new Accenture survey, which showed that 69 percent of shoppers plan to do the bulk of their holiday shopping by Dec. 7.  That’s up from 60 percent a year earlier.
More than half (52 percent), plan to shop on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), up from 42 percent last year.
The game of chicken between retailers and shoppers over discounts may be more intense this year after retailers had to practically give the store away in 2008 to clear inventory in the middle of the recession.
The vast majority of consumers (86 percent) will not be moved to buy without a discount of at least 20 percent, and a quarter of shoppers will be looking for an aggressive 50 percent discount before they open their wallets, the survey said.
“We have seen a ‘shift to thrift’ across all income levels during this economic downturn and breaking that habit will be the greatest challenge for retailers this holiday season,” Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice, said in a news release.
Gift cards may also come back, with 79 percent of people saying they will give them and 59 percent saying they really want them.
Also in the basket:
Cadbury’s bumper Q3 puts pressure on suitor Kraft
Altria revenue misses estimates
P.F. Chang’s profit misses; ups ’09 outlook

(Reuters photo)

from MediaFile:

Best Buy CEO: Don’t forget the gift card

Hey Brian Dunn, CEO of gadget lover's cathedral top electronics retailer Best Buy, what's on your short list of five great bang-for-your-buck devices for this holiday season?
(Thanks to the CNN Money reporter for asking this question at a press conference today)

DUNN: My short list?

* (First), on my personal short list -- a netbook is definitely on my short list - and by the way it's a companion device. It's lightweight, it's small, it's great to take on a quick trip.
* (Second) I think the HD Instinct is a very interesting smartphone. [Mediafile: That's Samsung's Instinct HD]
* (Third) I love my Flip HD camcorder. That's a great piece.
* Four, I really love the Ultra Thin OLED TVs are cool. [Mediafile: Um, cool yes. Bang for Buck? At about $2,000 for an 11-inch screen, let's just leave it at cool and move on. mkay?]
* The fifth one, of course, is a gift card , that I can give to the people I love, so they can get whatever it is they want.

Check Out Line: Shoppers resist last-minute urges


Check Out low shopper turnout just before Christmas.RETAIL-BLACKFRIDAY/

Only 38.7 percent of consumers in a survey were out for some last-minute holiday shopping in the weekend before Christmas — the smallest number in six years, according to the survey conducted by America’s Research Group and UBS.

Traffic was especially weak in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest, which were slammed by winter storms over the weekend. That kept scores of people at home, but those who did venture out seemed to opt for stores that had deep discounts going on.  Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, attracted over two-thirds of consumers, the survey found.

Check Out Line: Caught between a rock and a hard place


Check Out the tough love consumers are doling out to retailers.

Not only are they thinking twice about shopping, consumers are also losing faith in gift cards, according to the America’s Research Group/UBS 2008 Christmas survey.

While such cards were among the top gifts for holiday 2007, consumers this year are worried that stores could slip into bankruptcy and leave gift card recipients out in the cold.

Gift cards go interactive at


Feeling guilty about giving an uninspired gift card in this uninspired holiday season? How about a little pizzazz? is dressing up its electronic gift cards this year, partnering with HDGreetings, which makes animated, high definition e-cards.

Gift cards: distressed assets, holiday-style


Holiday gift cards are feeling a lot less like the gift that keeps on giving.

Over the past few years, gift card popularity exploded and retailers rushed to display new merchandise the day after Christmas, hoping to attract shoppers flush with new cards.

Retailers could count on consumers to splurge on full-priced merchandise or spend all the money on the card, plus a few dollars more.