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Customer Growth Partners: Holiday sales to rise 6.5%, to $554 billion

BY Marianne Wilson

New Canaan, Conn. — Value-focused but financially healthier American consumers will propel 2011 holiday sales to a record $554 billion, according to retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners’ 10th annual holiday forecast. The forecast, which is significantly more upbeat than other holiday surveys, predicts total retail sales growth of 6.5% for the November-December period over last year, the most rapid growth since 6.9% in 2004 — and over twice consensus forecasts called for lackluster growth of only 2.5%-3%.

“American households — at least the 91% with jobs — have deleveraged dramatically since 2007, while disposable income continues to rise, generating almost $50 billion/month in incremental free cash flow, even with gasoline price hikes,” said Craig Johnson, CEO, Customer Growth Partners, a consulting and research firm focused on consumer service industries, including retail, finance and communications. “And after three years of scrimping and saving, Americans are ready to spend — strategically and smartly, but for the first time in years, very few things will stand between an American consumer and her shopping destination.”

According to the forecast, apparel will lead holiday sales growth, with a year-over-year increase of 7.6%, led by the best burst of fashion excitement and newness in years. E-commerce will continue to be the fastest growing channel, at 12% YOY — a slightly slower pace than last year. Value retailers will also thrive, growing 8% YOY, led by the dollar stores and off-price apparel chains, and department stores will enjoy their best holiday in years.

“But despite the rebound we’re seeing across the retail landscape, the two fastest growing retailers are not traditional merchants at all — but Amazon and Apple, both growing about 40% a year, and both now Top 10 retailers as we enter 2012,” Johnson said.

Click here to read more.

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Toys “R” Us holiday promo plans include retro ads and QR codes

BY Marianne Wilson

Wayne, N.J. — Toys "R" Us holiday plans mix technology — QR — codes and retro ads that speak to the company’s heritage.

As part of its 2011 holiday advertising campaign, the chain will air a series of themed television commercials designed to showcase the company’s toy expertise and its strengths as a specialty retailer. The commercials include two ads from its archives which celebrate the heritage of the brand. Another group of ads feature products exclusive to Toys “R” Us.

"We believe our holiday marketing campaign speaks strongly to our toy authority position today and with the generations of kids who grew up with the Toys "R" Us brand," said Greg Ahearn, chief marketing officer, Toys "R" Us, U.S.

The first retro ad features children singing the iconic "I’m a Toys "R" Us Kid" jingle as they play with perennial toy favorites like trains, bikes, dolls and more. The spot ends with the updated tagline, "Still the World’s Greatest Toy Store.” In the other, Toys “R” Us mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe takes his family – and viewers – on a trip through an animated world of bright holiday lights.

The ads will begin airing on Oct. 30 on major networks and various cable stations.

In its other big holiday salvo, the Toys “R” Us annual holiday catalog will begin arriving in homes across the nation this weekend. The company has expanded the catalog into the digital realm this year with e-mailed bonus pages of holiday-themed deals and discounts that could not fit in the catalog.

Customers equipped with smartphones that can read quick response (QR) codes will find additional multimedia content about select products within the book. As a bonus, starting on Oct. 28, members of the company’s official Facebook fan page at Facebook.com/Toysrus can browse the entire catalog, clicking “like” on items to share their favorite toys with Facebook friends and family.

Customers can also experience a digital version of ultimate toy shopping guide online at Toysrus.com/HolidayBook beginning Oct. 30.

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California female Walmart employees regroup in bias case

BY Katherine Boccaccio

San Francisco — Four months after the Supreme Court tossed out a huge class-action lawsuit by female Walmart employees who claimed they were discriminated against by the world’s largest retailer, a smaller, regionalized group of employees has regrouped to file another gender-bias claim against Wal-Mart Stores.

The new, amended lawsuit, filed in San Francisco federal court on Thursday, narrows the class from all of the women who work or have worked at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores, estimated at 1.5 million, to those in the retailer’s California regions, estimated to be at least 45,000 current employees and 45,000 former employees across some 220 California stores. The group alleges that the company pays and promotes them at lower rates than their male counterparts.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said the lawsuit was the first of many that will be filed against Wal-Mart alleging discrimination against women in pay and advancement.

The June Supreme Court ruling, a 5-4 decision, determined that the plaintiffs had not met class-action requirements.

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