Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

“Was there something wrong with this item?”

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BRITAIN/You’ve been there before. The sales lady in the store skeptically fingers your return item, then gives you a withering look.

“Was there anything wrong with this item????” she asks dubiously, as you flounder to prove your innocence.

Return fraud is expected to cost retailers a whopping $3.68 billion this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s a 34 percent jump over last year, spurring 11 percent of retailers to tighten their policies.

Bringing stolen merchandise to stores to demand a credit is the most common form of return fraud, according to the survey. Also high on the list is “wardrobing” — wearing a special occasion item, for example, and then returning it the day after the party.

Check Out Line: Gimme, gimme, gimme cash!!

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USA/Check out what kids want for Christmas.

Okay, if you are reading this item on Dec. 24 and seriously looking for an idea of what to buy a kid for Christmas, your choices are likely somewhere between “The Perry Como Holiday CD Box Set” and a “Really, Stop-Tickling-Me-It-Isn’t-Funny-Anymore-Elmo.”

But no worries.  Kids between ages 6 and 18 are liking cash and gift cards even more this year, according to a new survey.

Target pops up, but this time with a focus on price

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tgt1Target is a big fan of the pop up store, setting up miniature versions of itself for a few days so shoppers can buy its wares, often in cities where it does not have a large presence.

A year ago, right before the financial storm hit Wall Street in September, it set up “Bullseye Bodegas” in Manhattan, where it showcased exclusive merchandise by 22 designers.

Check Out Line: If Hot Topic is any indication, November won’t be so hot

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doorbustCheck out the disappointing November sales results coming in early Wednesday morning.

Teen clothing retailer Hot Topic posted an 11.7 percent drop in November sales at stores open at least a year — worse than its own estimate of a decline of 8 percent to 11 percent.

Check Out Line: A Black Friday extravaganza!

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HOLIDAYSALES/Today’s a serious shopping day for serious shoppers.

Black Friday is no longer a sport for the leisurely shopper. From our late-night rounds, it became clear that people were lining up all over in the dead of night (and some earlier than that!) not just for the fun of it but out of necessity.

While many of the stoutest shoppers were grimly determined to get their deals and get out, there was some fun and holiday cheer.

Check Out Line: Bargain hunters trolling the web

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tgtCheck out consumers stepping up their online bargain hunting ahead of the holiday shopping rush.

According to Hitwise, searches for retailer promo codes rose 19 percent last week compared with 2008.

Check Out Line: Macy’s starts retail earnings parade

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Check out Macy’s disappointing fourth-quarter forecast. USA/

Apparently, the Thanksgiving Day Parade may be the highlight of the quarter.

The department store chain operator forecast fourth-quarter profit below analysts estimates and its shares fell Wednesday morning.

The retailer also expects same-store sales to drop 1 percent to 2 percent in the quarter.  While that is less of a decline than the full year, it is also off a pretty easy comparison.  Same-store sales fell 7 percent in the year-earlier fourth quarter, when the country was waist deep in a recession and credit crunch.

This year, a Christmas of blue jeans, not Blu-rays

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As we mentioned on Shop Talk this morning, the National Retail Federation expects total holiday sales this year to fall 1 percent.

giftThe trade group held a conference call later in the day to add details about their forecast. Here is what NRF spokeswoman Ellen Davis said about the forces that will shape the upcoming holiday shopping season:

Layaway goes virtual at Kmart

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kmartLast holiday season, Kmart touted its layaway program as a way to help cash-strapped shoppers afford their holiday purchases (and ultimately help boost its own sales).

This year, with consumers still reluctant to spend and estimates emerging that overall holiday sales may not rise from last year’s depressed levels, Kmart is extending the program and will launch online layaway on Oct. 9.

What’s hot in toyland this holiday season

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INDIAAs retailers gear up for the all-important holiday season, two industry veterans predicted what would be hot in toy land this year.Looking at the ‘hot toys” list from Jim Silver and Christopher Byrne of toy Web site TimetoPlayMag.com, it appears that even indulgent parents still don’t want to pay too much for a toy — with the exception of the Beatles Rock Band video game.That could put pressure on toy makers and retailers who have been cutting down on inventory and focusing on making and selling affordable toys to please consumers.The push may be vital, given the 2008 holiday season turned into one of the worst in nearly 40 years as the economic crisis bore down on shoppers.The complete “hot toys” list includes:Mattel’s Barbie Fashionistas dolls, Rocky the Robot truck, and the tween Dora, Crayola’s Crayon Town, Hasbro’s Candy Land Sweet Celebration game, a Nerf blaster gun and Transformers Constructicon Devastator battle vehicle, Cepia’s Zhu Zhu Pets hamsters, Bakugan 7-in-1 Maxus Helios playing cards and characters, MEGA brands’ Battle Strikers, Techno Source’s Printies, Spin Master’s Air Hogs Switchblade flyer, Jakks Pacific Eyeclops Night Vision Goggles and Girl Gourmet Sweet Candy Jewelry Factory, Lego’s Star Wars and the Beatles Rock Band video game.(Photo/Reuters)

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