Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Jobless claims rise, again

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Jobless1Check out the latest batch of grim data about the U.S. jobs market.

As if the consumer sector wasn’t nervous enough about a sputtering U.S. economy, the number of people filing new claims for unemployment insurance unexpectedly rose in the latest week to its highest level in close to six months.

Labor Department data showed the number of new claims for jobless benefits up 2,000 at 484,000 in the week ended August 7, the second straight increase. Economists polled by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 465,000 from the previously reported 479,000.

The news brings more pain to already angst-ridden retailers, who are hoping to pass on rising input costs to consumers with higher prices as companies try to guard margins in a tepid sales environment.

In July, retailers posted weaker-than-expected sales despite cutting prices to lure back shoppers, suggesting a rough back-to-school season.

Check Out Line: Earnings-palooza!

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macys1Check out all the earnings in the consumer world.

Several retailers and food companies posted quarterly results, offering different views on where they stand in a recession that has consumers dialing back spending.

Macy’s posted a better-than-expected profit as it cut costs, but the department store operator’s new, higher earnings forecast shows full-year profit could still fall short of analysts’ expectations.

from Summit Notebook:

Not for all the tea in China

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Sara Lee Chief Executive Brenda Barnes is looking to expand the reach of the food maker.    But one thing she isn't looking to do is sell tea in China.

Geographic expansion is a key strategy for the company through its coffee, tea and household products brands, she said at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit. However, business in Western Europe has suffered over the past eight months from recession. 

Check Out Line: Food vs foreign currency

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Check Out Sara Lee and Kraft Foods joining the “stronger dollar” bandwagon. KRAFT/

Both food makers cut their profit forecasts for the current year, citing the pain they expect from the stronger U.S. dollar decreasing the value of sales from international markets.

Come back to work. We’ve got cheesecake.

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In 1997, Brenda Barnes famously left her job as PepsiCo North America CEO in order to raise her family.
 
She returned to work as Sara Lee’s COO seven years later and became Sara Lee’s CEO in 2005.
 
Now she wants to help others who are returning to the corporate world after taking a career hiatus.
 
Sara Lee is starting up a “Returnship” program. These “internships for experienced professionals” will give mid-career professionals a chance to try out the work place again.
 
Sara Lee will provide training and in return gets to tap the skills and expertise of people who already have business experience. The 10 to 12 returnships will also be paid.
 
The people will be filling real jobs at Sara Lee and have an opportunity to continue in the jobs once the three- to six-month “returnship” is over, Barnes said in an interview.
 
“We’re not doing this to be benevolent,” Barnes said. “This is all about filling jobs for us.”
 
Most people returning to work will not have had the same “break” experience that Barnes had. While getting to spend more time with her children than a typical corporate executive, Barnes also served on the boards of Staples, Sears, Avon, PepsiAmericas, Starwood, The New York Times and Lucasfilm.
 
She also saw many women who were taking time off to raise their children while also running charities, school boards and other organizations.
 
For those who want to transfer those skills back into the corporate world, Sara Lee is trying to make it easier.
 
For more information about the returnships, click here.

(Photo: Reuters)

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