Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Sam’s Club outsources, sheds 10 percent of jobs

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samsCheck out Sam’s Club cutting 11,200 jobs or about 10 percent of its workforce as it outsources in-store product demos and sheds jobs for recruiting new business members to its warehouses.

Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart, will use a third-party company, Shopper Events , rather than its own staff to essentially hand out food samples or demonstrate electronics to passersby, allowing Sam’s Club to let go of about 10,000 mostly part-time workers. (Though they can apply for new jobs with Shopper Events.)

Sam’s Club is also getting rid of about 1,200 staff responsible for recruiting new business members.

(The move has some echoes of Saks Inc’s decision to offload workers at its cosmetics and fragrance counters at its Fifth Avenue flagship store by the end of this month and have outside vendors staff their counters.)

Safeway, Walmart top list of most wanted gift cards

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SafewayWhile giving gift cards may have declined in popularity, some are proving quite attention-worthy and can be cashed in for a pretty penny.  Online gift card site plasticjungle.com buys gift cards for cash, and then resells them, often for a bit less than the amount left on the card.  It also lets people donate cards to charities.

So, what stores are hot this holiday season?

Here are the cards the site is paying the most for — up to 90 percent of the face value:

The greening of Wal-Mart

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walmartsustainable Wal-Mart, which helped promote the adoption of those funny-looking “green” lightbulbs, is making more room in its Sam’s Club warehouse stores for environmentally friendly products — including a water-saving toilet that has one button for flushing liquids and another for flushing solids.

Employees at a Sam’s Club in the discounter’s home town in Bentonville, Arkansas, have emptied shelves of things like power tools to make way for a variety of green products. Similar efforts have taken place in Sam’s Clubs across the United States.

Welcome to Wal-Mart country

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bentonvillewmtoneReuters is attending Wal-Mart’s annual meeting this week and will be sending news, tweets and images from the event via Shop Talk.

Our tour will include visits to the company’s distribution center, a Sam’s Club warehouse store and a Walmart supercenter.

Sam’s Club tries luring new members with $10 deal

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sams.jpgWal-Mart is betting $10 and 10 weeks will draw new members to its Sam’s Club warehouses.

Sam’s Club and Costco work as membership clubs. Shoppers pay an annual fee that allows them to shop in the warehouses and get discounts on everything from diamond rings and big screen TVs, to bulk-sized packages of toilet paper or bottled water.

BJ’s: Prices are going up and competition may be “brutal”

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costco1.jpgLate last month, Costco warned its quarterly profit would miss Wall Street estimates as soaring costs and inflationary pressures ate into its margins.

While the cost of the goods it sells was going up, the No 1 U.S. warehouse club operator said it was delaying passing along price increases to shoppers in order to boost its sales and appeal to cash-strapped consumers.

Who knew a grain of rice would cause a global ruckus?

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thrice2408.gifFood costs have been soaring worldwide, spurred by increased demand in emerging markets like China and India; competition with biofuels; high oil prices and market speculation. 

That situation has sparked food riots in several African countries, Indonesia, and Haiti. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that higher food prices could hurt global growth and security.

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