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BY CSA STAFF

Pet-Store Chain Adds Private-Label Credit

Even the smallest retail chains can offer private-label credit-card services. Shake A Paw, a pet-store chain based in Mahwah, N.J., and operating four locations in New York and New Jersey, selected Shoppers Charge Accounts (SCA) to develop and administer its private-label credit-card program.

Through its credit-card program, Shake A Paw will offer cardholders special privileges, such as a 90-day, same-as-cash option—making how much that doggie in the window costs a much smaller obstacle to pet adoption.

Shake A Paw sells puppies and the products needed to raise them, including training aids, crates, toys, food and vitamins. SCA is a division of TD Banknorth, N.A., headquartered in Portland, Maine.

Gift Cards Gain Mobility

A recently announced wireless application from San Diego-based Transaction Wireless allows gift cards to be purchased and sent via mobile phones. Additionally, the technology facilitates management of gift-card accounts, enabling consumers to check balances, combine balances from multiple cards and add funds to the cards all via their mobile phones.

Conducting the gift-card transaction via mobile commerce (m-commerce) will create branding and personalization opportunities for both retailers and consumers. The m-commerce platform lends itself to easy enhancement of gift cards with personalized images, audio and video, which create custom-tailored consumer experiences.

For retailers, the m-commerce-based gift-card transaction could become a powerful branding tool that provides an opportunity to develop one-to-one marketing initiatives and build customer-intimacy programs. The versatile application incorporates text messaging, Internet and voice technologies, and operates on any wireless system or transaction processing platform.

Another advantage of the wireless gift card will be the seamless integration of stored-value systems to the mobile phone. When traditional plastic gift cards are lost or stolen, the cash value remaining on the card is also lost or stolen. However, because the wireless gift card’s cash value is stored and tracked through the cardholder’s unique mobile-phone number, the cash value is never lost.

To support the new services, Transaction Wireless entered into a processor licensing agreement with Secure Payment Systems (SPS), a national gift- and rewards-card processor also based in San Diego.

Restaurants Serve Secure Wireless Solution

A mid growing consumer concerns over identity and credit-card theft, and increased awareness of nefarious practices such as credit-card skimming in restaurants, technology that enables pay-at-the-table processes has met with rave reviews. In a pay-at-the-table scenario, restaurant servers provide patrons with wireless handhelds and the consumer actually processes the card transaction; the consumers’ payment cards never leave their possession.

Following a six-month proof-of-concept test of its new On The Spot wireless-payment solution, Las Vegas-based VeriFone Holdings concluded that pay-at-the-table products and services successfully allowed restaurant operators to accept lower-cost debit-card payments, improve operational efficiency and provide consumers protection from card fraud. The proof-of-concept phase was implemented in more than 30 installations representing a wide variety of restaurant environments and multiple geographic locations.

“Guests like the elimination of any potential fraud and they find the [technology] to be interactive and fun,” said John Metz, owner of the Aqua Blue restaurant in Roswell, Ga., one of the test locations for the new technology. “We like it because it helps move tables on a busy night,” he added.

In a consumer survey of restaurant patrons who experienced the On The Spot solution, VeriFone found that 87% of respondents said they had a “high” sense of security using the system; 85% reported the system was faster than conventional payment methods at restaurants; and 52% said that being able to use their PIN-based debit card was important to them.

VeriFone provides three methods of deployment: stand-alone use, hosted managed services and integration with restaurant management systems (RMS).

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Sears comps hurt by energy costs

BY CSA STAFF

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. Sears Holdings today reported net income of $216 million, or $1.40 per diluted share, for the first quarter ended May 5, compared with net income of $180 million, or $1.14 per diluted share, for the first quarter ended April 29, 2006.

“In part, our domestic operating results reflect the impact of some of the same challenges being faced by our customers, such as rising energy costs and a slower housing market,” said Aylwin Lewis, Sears Holdings’ ceo and president. “However, as an organization, we need to overcome these factors by better controlling costs and developing innovative solutions that better meet our customers’ needs and allow us to generate a more reasonable level of profitability even in the face of such challenges.”

Domestic comparable-store sales declined 3.9% during the first quarter of fiscal 2007. Sears domestic comparable-store sales declined 3.4% for the quarter, while Kmart comparable-store sales declined 4.4%. We believe these declines reflect both increased competition and the impact of external factors such as rising energy costs, a slower housing market and poor weather conditions during the latter part of the first quarter of fiscal 2007. Kmart experienced lower transaction volumes across most merchandise categories, most notably within home goods, health and beauty products, and food and consumables. Similarly, Sears domestic recorded comparable-store sales declines across most merchandise categories and formats, with a notable decline in home appliance sales, which we believe reflects both a slower U.S. housing market and the impact of increased competition.

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Big Lots 1Q net sales up 3.4%

BY CSA STAFF

COLUMBUS, Ohio Big Lots today reported first quarter fiscal 2007 income from continuing operations of $29 million, or 26 cents per diluted share, compared to income from continuing operations of $14.5 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, in the first quarter of fiscal 2006. Including the impact of discontinued operations, first quarter fiscal 2007 net income totaled $28.8 million, or 26 cents per diluted share, compared to $13.7 million, or 12 cents per diluted share, in the prior year.

Net sales for the first quarter ended May 5, increased 3.4% to $1.13 billion, compared to $1.1 billion for the same period in fiscal 2006. Comparable-store sales for stores open at least two years at the beginning of the fiscal year increased 4.9% for the quarter.

For the second quarter 2007, the company expects income from continuing operations of 7 cents to 10 cents per share versus income from continuing operations of 4 cents per share last year. Comparable-store sales are expected to increase 2% to 4%, compared to a 5.2% comparable-store sales increase recorded last year.

For fiscal 2007, the company expects income from continuing operations of $1.25 to $1.30 per share versus income from continuing operations of $1.01 per share last year.

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