FINANCE

August consumer sentiment rose to three-month high

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index climbed to a better-than-expected 74.3, compared to 72.3 in July and representing a three-month high.

Aggressive retail discounting and record-low interest rates boosted the results, but unemployment remains a big concern.

“Confidence is lackluster,” Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics Ltd., told Bloomberg. “It typifies the economy right now. It’s not strong, but not collapsing either.”

The U.S. consumer sentiment gauge was projected to rise to 73.6, according to the median forecast of 60 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Estimates ranged from 72 to 75.2. The index averaged 64.2 during the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009.

The Michigan survey’s index of current conditions, which reflects Americans’ perceptions of their financial situation and whether it is a good time to buy big-ticket items like cars, rose to 88.7, a four-year high, from 82.7 the prior month.

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FINANCE

Collective Brands swings to Q2 profit

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Topeka, Kan. — Collective Brands Inc. reported Friday that net income for the second quarter was $9.7 million, compared with a loss of $35 million last year when it booked nearly $84 million in one-time charges.

Sales for the owner of Payless ShoeSource and Stride Rite grew 6% to $886 million and same-store sales rose 2.9%.

The results were in spite of closing hundreds of stores and taking charges related to the pending sale of the company to a consortium made up of Blum Strategic Partners, Golden Gate Capital and Wolverine World Wide slated to close in the third or fourth quarter.

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Survey: BTS shopping shows surge in coupon use

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Austin, Texas — A survey released Friday by coupon site RetailMeNot found that coupon use for back-to-school shopping surged this year, particularly for retailers selling books, school supplies and apparel.

According to RetailMeNot, which measured coupon usage during the July 1 to Aug. 20 selling period, as compared with the prior three months, the average daily coupon clicks increased more than 130% for book retailers, more than 40% for merchants selling back-to-school supplies and more than 30% for stores selling apparel and shoes.

RetailMeNot also announced the findings of a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, which revealed new shopping patterns among consumers with children headed back or already back in the classroom. Results included:

  • More than half (59%) of parents say they usually finish their back-to-school shopping by the end of summer;
  • Forty seven percent say they will finish the bulk of their back-to-school shopping in August; 8% say they are usually done in July; 3% in June; and 2% before the previous school year even ends.
  • However, nearly three in 10 parents (28%) report that they usually finish the bulk of their back-to-school shopping at some point in September.
  • By region, parents in the northeast are more likely to finish the bulk of their shopping sometime in September (45%) as compared with those from the West (28%), Midwest (26%), or South (22%).

Although the majority of parents say that they begin their back-to-school shopping over the summer, when asked how far along they are once school actually starts, fewer than four in 10 (37%) say that they are done with their shopping by the start of school. About three in ten (28%) parents say that they usually have a few things still left to buy for their children but that they are mostly done; 9% say they still have several key items they need to purchase; and 4% say they are nowhere near done.

Additionally, about one in 10 (11%) say that they like to shop after the start of the school year to see what their children’s actual needs are.

The survey found that in-store shopping is far preferable to online, with 83% of parents opting to do back-to-school shopping in stores, and 8% preferring to do so online.

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