Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: The rebates are coming! The rebates are coming!


walmartt.jpgCheck out those federal rebate checks.
Tax rebates began arriving in U.S. consumers’ bank accounts this week as part of Washington’s $152 billion stimulus package.  (Direct deposits this week and paper checks next week.)

Retailers have various strategies for attracting those rebate dollars. Many of them are offering 10 percent bonuses when the checks are converted to store discounts.

Then there is Wal-Mart, which will cash the checks for free. That’s it. Cashing the checks for free. No bonus, like Kroger or Supervalu are offering. Just cashing the checks for free.

Of course, unlike other retailers, Wal-Mart will cash the checks free without requiring a purchase in the store. Obviously, if you have to put the funds from your rebate onto a Kroger or RadioShack gift card, you would spend the money in those stores.

Could there be sunshine on the horizon for retailers?


umbrella.jpgMarch’s weather was not exactly a friend to retailers.

It was cold, damp and even snowy in parts of the country — not quite ideal weather conditions for retailers trying to sell new spring goods, like dresses, sandals, or even fertilizer. (We saw the extent of their struggles on Thursday, when retailers reported dismal March sales figures)

While weather is obviously a very local phenomenon, April so far has not been much kinder than March. According to weather tracking firm Planalytics, this weekend – April 12th and 13th — will be a repeat of most Eastern weekends this spring — a mixture of storminess and cooler temperatures.

Check Out Line: Wal-Mart customers stretch for groceries


wmtarmour3.JPG Check out what Wal-Mart customers have to say about the economy and how it is changing how they shop.
Reuters reporters went to Wal-Mart stores in New Jersey, Illinois and California this week to see how the weak economy (see today’s jobs report) has made them change how they grocery shop.
Here are some of their comments. For the full story, click here. For the Reuters Television video, click here.
“I don’t buy a lot of expensive meat anymore. I buy more vegetables, because they are cheaper.” — Fran Allen, 77-year-old part-time factory employee from Romeoville, Illinois.
“I buy what is on the list and nothing that isn’t on the list.” — Patricia Norris, homemaker in Romeoville.
“That doesn’t cover it…. I went over again … It’s almost impossible to stay on budget.” – Barbara Armour, whose family food budget is $350-$400 month, after shopping at a Santa Clarita, Cal. store.
“Something has to be done, because these prices are just getting ridiculous.” — Karen Stewart, hospital housekeeper from Plainfield, Ill.
“I’m making changes just because of how much I’m paying on gas…. I went to a gas station with $100 and came out with nothing.” — Jamie Dorgan, homemaker from Joliet, Ill.

“People might not buy clothes, shoes, jewelry, but they need food. People have to eat.”
— Ravi Varma, a convenience store operator who uses the Secaucus Wal-Mart as his supplier.

Also in the basket:

Family Dollar profit falls, cuts full-year forecast

Brands’ dilemma: Target elbows way into upscale beauty world (WWD)

Claiborne to shape up U.S. assets

Driving far for deals despite high gas prices


Fred Katayama visits a Wal-mart just outside New York City to see how consumers socked with high gas prices and a sputtering economy are changing the way they shop. His full report hits the website on Friday. It’s part of a Reuters multimedia presentation in text, video and pictures.

Check Out Line: Big gains for Big Lots and Wal-Mart


sell.jpgLow price retailers appear to be in. The top performing stock in the first quarter among components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, through Friday, was Wal-Mart, with a 9.66 percent gain — one of only five stocks up in the index.

And in a much wider group, Big Lots is the big winner in the S&P 500 with a 40.25 percent gain in through Friday. The shares of the company, which specializes in  the sale of excess inventory, posted a 33 percent increase in March alone.