Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Tussle over toys as holiday season nears

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sears1Check out the latest news on the fight for a piece of toy market.

U.S. retailer Sears plans to launch 85 toy shops in select markets next month as it angles for a bigger bite of the holiday sales pie, a senior executive told Reuters. Specialty retailer Toys R Us previously announced plans to open about 600 temporary stores and 10 FAO Schwarz “pop-up” stores this year. 

The move from the operator of Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain comes as competition heats up in the toy market ahead of the crucial selling season.

“We have a very aggressive plan for growing our toy business,” Julia Fitzgerald, chief marketing officer for Sears’ toy business said in an interview ahead of an event marking the launch of Kmart’s top toy picks for the holidays.

The decision came after many customers showed interest to shop for toys in convenient locations such as malls, during a pilot program in 20 department stores last year. 

Kmart embraces the ghost of Christmas past

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Written by Tom Hals

kmartAs its rivals plan aggressive discounts on flat-panel TVs and round the clock hours to lure in recession-weary shoppers, Kmart is sticking with what worked, even if it is what worked 40 years ago.
 
Chief Marketing Officer Mark Snyder, who joined the company last year just before the holiday season, said the chain had no major new initiatives this year but plans to “build on the successes” of 2008. 
 
In other words, a fresh spin on layaway plans and Blue Light Specials, and of course the deep discount days that are a retailing standard this time of year.
 
One new offering includes a Christmas club, a staple of 1950s household budgeting that only deepens the impression that Kmart is rushing into its past to find the future.
 
The goal is to help households crushed by mounting debt to “leverage their cash,” or in other words, pay when credit is no longer available, he told us.
 
The chain may be onto something.  Kmart’s same-store sales for the quarter ended Oct. 31 rose 0.5 percent, only the second quarterly increase it has posted since 2001.
 
A recent visit to a Pennsylvania Kmart did not turn up any blaring lights or calls of “attention Kmart shoppers.”  It did show that some elements of Kmart’s past are more easily forgotten.
 
Asked by this reporter, the outgoing and helpful staff tried to locate Martha Stewart-branded housewares, possibly the last as their long-standing partnership ends this year. 
 
Another member of staff joined the hunt until a manager reminded everyone that Martha Stewart’s final inventory was sold out the week before, not with blue lights but helped by clearance prices. Like those found at Wal-Mart.

(Reuters photo)

Martha Stewart decorates your home… and your pets

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Here is a post from our colleague Shradhha Sharma in Bangalore:

Martha Stewart loves youmarthar pet.

The home decorating expert and tastemaker (Macy’s good, Home Depot good, Kmart not so good) wants you to buy pet clothing, collars, leashes, bedding, grooming supplies, toys and more, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia said on Tuesday. Pet products retailer PetSmart Inc will sell the accessories starting in the spring of 2010.

Age Group Ltd, which makes licensed products for brands such as Disney, Baby Phat, Hello Kitty and Peanuts, will design the goods.

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.

from MediaFile:

Martha Stewart KA-Bars Kmart

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After seeing Martha Stewart on CNBC this morning, I was surprised to find that she doesn't sell a Martha Stewart-branded KA-Bar knife because she seems like she knows how to use one.

Stewart appeared on TV to talk about the company's new merchandising agreement with Home Depot. The hardware big-box retailer will offer a line of products sold under the Martha Stewart brand. Before they got too far into the interview, they talked about a similar program with discount retailer Kmart that ends in January 2010 -- the same time that the Home Depot deal begins.

Check Out Line: When cost cuts aren’t enough

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shldCheck out the cost cutting formula failing at Sears.

In the past few weeks a slew of retailers, ranging from Target to Macy’s to Dillard’s, have posted results that were better than Wall Street expected, helped by cost cuts.  Retailers have done everything from freezing executive salaries to eliminating jobs to slowing store expansion plans.

But on Thursday, Sears reported a surprise loss in its second quarter while analysts were expecting a profit.

Some retailers hope for Christmas magic

Santa’s not getting any rest this year.

After U.S. retailers posted the longest running decline in same-store sales in nearly a decade, Sears, Kmart and Toys R Us announced Christmas-themed sales for the month of July.  While actual sale dates and locations vary among the three chains, the event has drawn a lot of attention from news media, which had the once-in-a-year joy of headlining a story with “Christmas in July.”

Not to be outdone, Disney has sent a train to 36 states around the country to promote its new animated film “A Christmas Carol,” slated for release this November.  Yes, November.

Wal-Mart shows its strength on Black Friday

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Wal-Mart flexed its retail muscle on Black Friday to the delight of deal-seeking shoppers who spoke with our reporter Nicole Maestri in Columbia, Maryland.

Early bird buyers with shopping carts stuffed with toys, electronics and clothes stood 10 deep in checkout lines and the parking lot was packed with cars at 7:30 in the morning. In Valley Stream, Long Island, the crush turned tragic when a temp worker was killed by the crowd surging through a Wal-Mart’s doors.

Women plan to spend less at department stores, mass merchants

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shop.jpgLast month, in a poll conducted by SheSpeaks, a women’s insights marketing firm, almost 50 percent of respondents said they would spend less this holiday. That was up from nearly 30 percent who answered the same way last year.

In a new poll, SheSpeaks asks where shoppers intend to spend fewer dollars. Here are the results from the updated poll:

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