Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

from Environment Forum:

Paper or plastic? Oh, and 25 cents please!


California, always seeking to be a trendsetter on environmental policy, is weighing a proposal to charge 25 cents for every paper or plastic bag distributed at grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores. The money raised would go into a state fund used to clean up trash and prevent litter related to what the bill calls "single-use" bags.

The bill's sponsor, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, says 25 cents a bag is high enough to have a real impact on consumer behavior. The fee would be waived for some low-income Californians.

The idea, of course, is to encourage people to bring their own reusable bags to the supermarket. Brownley argues that a similar program in Ireland has been a success, reducing plastic bag litter by more than 90 percent.

The bill's other aim is to help the state offset the $25 million a year it spends to clean up plastic bag waste. Municipalities spend $300 million, Brownley says.

Check Out Line: “Bipolar” sales could signal better April


Check out this deeper look at March’s same-store sales results.

BLACKFRIDAY/Last week, retailers reported monthly sales that declined less than expected, a possible sign that shoppers may be regaining confidence to open their wallets after more than a year of recession.

On Monday, Lazard Capital Markets analyst Todd Slater offered his detailed take on the numbers, which he labeled as “bipolar”  — with comp store sales more negative than expected, but earnings more positive.

What’s on your toilet paper roll?


tp1Consumer Reports is watching your behind.

The magazine, which rates everything from televisions to coffee, has taken on toilet paper and found that shoppers could save up to $130 a year by switching brands.

Consumer Reports rated Georgia-Pacific’s Quilted Northern Ultra Plush, which costs 29 cents per 100 sheets, best for strength and softness, but said that store brands Kirkland Signature (Costco) and White Cloud (Wal-Mart) offer the most performance for the price of 12 to 15 cents per 100 sheets.

Check Out Line: Save a buck, drive a share price


STORM-IKE/Check out the higher profits at discounter Family Dollar Stores.

Family Dollar, which prices most of its merchandise below $10, and other discounters like Wal-Mart and Dollar Tree, have been flourishing in the recession as consumers turn to them for low-priced essentials like food and cleaning supplies.

Family Dollar’s success in turn pleased shareholders, who pushed up the company’s shares in pre-market trading.

Check Out Line: Same old gloomy retail results expected


sale1Check out the lackluster results that are expected for U.S. retailers.

Excluding the 3 percent gain forecast for Wal-Mart, March retail sales are expected to fall 4.7 percent, matching the results in February.  Value retailers like Wal-Mart seem to be the only area holding up in the recession.

“Consumers are under significant pressure and we don’t anticipate that changing any time soon,” Morningstar analyst Brady Lemos said. “We, like most analysts, have a pretty pessimistic view for the foreseeable future, unfortunately.”

Check Out Line: Signs of a bottom for retail stocks


TOPSHOP/Check out Bernstein Research talking about signs of a bottom for retail stocks.

In a research note, Bernstein says that as the broader market recovered a strong 8.5 percent in March, retailers logged another month of robust performance, with a 15.9 percent return for the month.

Picture the economy: L.A.


A picture is worth a thousand words — and some Californians have a lot to say about the worst financial crisis in decades.












greenspan5The economic meltdown was the focus of Crossman Wilkins’ (above) master’s thesis at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.

It’s 4:15 – do you know what your dinner is?


If you’re broke and in a hurry, Supervalu — the owner of grocery chains like Lucky, Albertsons,  Shop ‘n Save and Shaw’s – has your number and it’s 4:15.

mealdestination_highres2The third-largest U.S. supermarket operator is setting up stations in its produce, meat and deli departments that feature the fixings for fast, easy, home-cooked meals that can feed a family of four for less than $15.

Check Out Line: Love those coupons


grocery1Check out how U.S. consumers are eyeing their junk mail ever more closely for coupons to save money during the recession, particularly on groceries and entertainment.

Consumer expect a 10 to 25 percent discount in coupons sent by mail, according to a study by U.S. mail services provider Pitney Bowes and DMNews, a trade publication that covers direct marketing.

Check Out Line: From beef jerky to jewelry, cost cuts pay off


USA-RETAILSALES/Check out retailers at the high end and the mass level topping Wall Street profit expectations after cutting costs.

Tiffany & Co’s fourth-quarter profit  handily topped analysts’ estimates, after the luxury jeweler took aggressive steps to tighten its cost structure as even wealthy consumers pare back spending in the recession.