Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: SYMS is nation’s hottest retailer

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FandECheck Out STORES Magazine’s 2010 Hot 100 Retailers list.

The top spot goes to off-price retailer SYMS, based in Secaucus, New Jersey. The chain, known for the slogan “An educated consumer is our best customer,” bought 20 Filene’s Basement locations last year, and now offers discount designer clothes for women and men. Other off-price chains who made the top 100 list include Citi Trends (#10), Ross Stores (#21) and TJ Maxx operator TJX (#29).

The annual list ranked the fastest-growing retail chains in the United States, based on increases in year-over-year domestic sales between 2008 and 2009. The list was compiled by Kantar Retail on behalf of STORES Media, which is the publishing and communications group of the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Coming in at No. 2 this year is the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain by Britain’s Tesco. The small-format grocer debuted in late 2007 and at the end of last year had 145 Fresh & Easy stores located in a few western states.

“It’s not unusual to see smaller retailers atop lists of fast-growing companies because generating growth off a small base can be relatively easy for an appealing concept,” said Mary Brett Whitfeld, senior vice president of Kantar Retail in a statement. “But given the economic challenges of the past year, making this list regardless of size is quite an accomplishment.”

Target wants shoppers to squeeze the (supersized) Charmin

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Grab that shopping cart – you’re going to need it.

greatsaveTo lure post holiday shoppers this year, Target has scrapped its typical plan of stocking its stores with exotic home goods sourced from across this globe.

Instead, it has cleared out the Christmas trees and holiday lights to make room for a mini warehouse club.

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.

Consumers shrug in the face of lean inventory

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bored1Lean inventory may be the secret weapon that retailers are depending on to survive the holiday season with earnings intact.

But consumers don’t exactly seem to be quaking in their boots at the prospects of finding empty racks this Christmas season.

Check Out Line: Coach profits from Poppy

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Check out the boost Coach is getting from its new Poppy line.

The leather goods retailer reported higher than expected quarterly profit and sales on Tuesday.

cohCoach said its new Poppy line, which is aimed at younger women with its bright colors and lower prices, helped increase store traffic from the previous quarter.

How about some lipstick to go with that lawn mower?

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shld1Sears, the low-priced retailer known for its selection of Craftsman tools and kitchen appliances, is jumping on the beauty bandwagon.

The retailer is debuting beauty departments  — called Sears Beauty — in 13 mall locations in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

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.

Check Out Line: Can a $298 laptop jump-start back-to-school?

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schoolbus2Check out efforts to get serious back-to-school shopping underway.

Wal-Mart announced plans to start selling on Sunday a Compaq Presario laptop for $298.

Gary Severson, Wal-Mart U.S.’s senior vice president of home entertainment, told Reuters he thought the deal represented a “screaming value.”

Wider aisles? Cleaner stores? Must be Wal-Mart’s Project Impact

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walmartelectronicsWal-Mart has a plan to keep shoppers coming into its discount stores once the economy improves and it is called ”Project Impact.”

While the retailer lost customers during the boom years as shoppers spent their dollars in the brighter, cleaner stores of its competitors, Wal-Mart is trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Professor Lee Scott?

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Could Lee Scott be heading off to Stanford?WALMART/CHINA

Scott will retire as CEO of the world’s largest retailer as of Feb. 1.

While Scott will remain chairman of the executive committee of the board after retiring as CEO, he gave a hint on Monday as to how he might spend some of his upcoming free time.

Speaking at a Wal-Mart meeting that was broadcast over the Internet, Scott said he has been asked by Stanford to be a visiting professor.

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