Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Invasion of the robo-hamsters


Check out the Zhu Zhu Pet airlift of 2009. ZhuZhuworld

Wal-Mart is flying and trucking in hundreds of thousands of the robotic varmints to lure shoppers into the doors during the last days before Christmas.

The fake pets — which have presumably turned 1,00s of children into Zhu Zhu pests to their parents and grandparents — will be sold  starting at 7 a.m. on Dec. 21-Dec. 23, with stores each getting a limited amount.

The move by Wal-Mart comes as consumers continue to wait until the last minute to get the best deals. The National Retail Federation says only 46.7 percent of consumers had completed their holiday shopping by the second week of December, a five-year low.

With Christmas on a Friday this year, some analysts think shoppers may even pass up “Super Saturday” — the Saturday before Christmas and typically one of the busiest shopping days of the year — and shop next week instead.

Check Out Line: Honey, OK if I buy this $300 gadget?


money1Check out how the recession has redefined what “major purchase” means to American consumers.

Three times the number of consumers said “yes” compared with “no” when asked if they need to discuss a purchase of $250 to $300 with their spouse or partner to determine if they can afford it, according to a survey by It was the first time “yes” topped “no” at that price level.

Safeway, Walmart top list of most wanted gift cards


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 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:

Check Out Line: More holiday reality checks from retailers


anntayCheck out more retailers reminding Wall Street that all is not well on Main Street.

On Friday morning,  AnnTaylor Stores reported lower-than-expected quarterly revenue and gave a cautious forecast for the current holiday quarter.

Turkey Talk Time


turkey3Thanksgiving is a week away, let’s talk turkey.

It’s time to defrost your bird, says Mary Clingman, director of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line (1-800-BUTTERBALL).

Clingman and her fellow Turkey talk specialists field about 100,000 panicked calls from home cooks each year and have dubbed this Thursday ”national thaw day.”

This holiday’s shiny new toy: social media


iphoneCompanies that cater to consumers are always chasing after the latest consumer technology trend (anyone remember Second Life?), and this holiday season that means following them into the world of social media.

Companies ranging from Wal-Mart and Panda Express to J.C. Penney and Target are experimenting with Facebook, TwitterYouTube or Flickr. Some are tweeting special coupons or limited-time deals, while others are doling out fashion advice or providing play-by-plays from product launch parties on Facebook. M.A.C. said it is using its Facebook page to feature artists, color collections, and what is happening backstage at fashion shows. 

Check Out Line: A quarterly update from toyland


matCheck out Mattel reporting a smaller-than-expected decline in third-quarter revenue as the toymaker sees gains in its Hot Wheels and American Girl brands.

Profit fell to $229.8 million, or 63 cents a share, from $238.1 million, or 65 cents a share, a year earlier.  Net sales fell 8 percent to $1.79 billion.  Analysts expected revenue of $1.78 billion.

from MediaFile:

Best Buy CEO: Don’t forget the gift card

Hey Brian Dunn, CEO of gadget lover's cathedral top electronics retailer Best Buy, what's on your short list of five great bang-for-your-buck devices for this holiday season?
(Thanks to the CNN Money reporter for asking this question at a press conference today)

DUNN: My short list?

* (First), on my personal short list -- a netbook is definitely on my short list - and by the way it's a companion device. It's lightweight, it's small, it's great to take on a quick trip.
* (Second) I think the HD Instinct is a very interesting smartphone. [Mediafile: That's Samsung's Instinct HD]
* (Third) I love my Flip HD camcorder. That's a great piece.
* Four, I really love the Ultra Thin OLED TVs are cool. [Mediafile: Um, cool yes. Bang for Buck? At about $2,000 for an 11-inch screen, let's just leave it at cool and move on. mkay?]
* The fifth one, of course, is a gift card , that I can give to the people I love, so they can get whatever it is they want.

Check Out Line: More stuff to buy on


WALMART/INTERNATIONALCheck Out the discount giant’s latest move. announced that it added nearly one million new products to its online collection with the launch of Walmart Marketplace, which lets consumers buy items from a specific group of other retailers through its own website.

The move adds products and top brands in areas such as home goods, apparel, toys and baby items.

How about some lipstick to go with that lawn mower?


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.