FINANCE

Deloitte: Back-to-school spending down

BY Dan Berthiaume

New York — Parents and their children in grades K-12 will spend a combined $543 on back-to-school items, and double that, at $1,223, on college spending. According to new survey data from Deloitte, parents alone expect to spend 13% less than in 2013.

More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) shopping for children in grades K-12 indicate their back-to-school purchases will be driven by the school’s recommended product list, rather than their child’s requests. More than one-quarter (26%) of parents expect to complete their shopping after the start of the school year.

In terms of where consumers plan to shop, "online sites" moved up to the number two shopping destination, tied with "office supply/technology stores" and behind "discount/value department stores" for the first time in the survey’s history. The number of shoppers who prefer to purchase from retailers offering the option to buy online and pick up in the store increased to 40% from 33% last year. Nearly six-in-10 (57%) say they plan to conduct research online before buying in the physical store.

Nearly six-in-10 (55%) of respondents in the Back-to-School survey say they are more concerned about the protection of their personal data when shopping online than one year ago. Those worries extend to the physical store, where more than half (51%) of respondents said they are concerned about the protection of their personal data. However, 44% acknowledged that they are more likely to shop at a retailer who provides education surrounding the security of their personal data.

While nearly one-in-five (18%) parents of children in grades K-12 plan to visit social media sites, on par with last year, the percentage more than doubles in college households. Two-in-five, or 44%, of respondents said they or their children plan to use social media sites to assist in their back-to-college shopping.

However, this year reveals a shift in the value that households with college-bound students place on social sources, with declining emphasis on simply looking for deals. While the number of shoppers checking social media channels for promotions dipped 12 percentage points to 55% compared with 2013, the number who plan to visit retailers’ pages (46%) jumped 12 percentage points, and those posting comments and reviews (37%) climbed 13 percentage points from 2013.

Among the electronics that college students own, the survey revealed that smartphone ownership overtook personal computer (desktop and laptop) ownership in 2014. Nine-in-10 (89%) college students own smart phones, compared with 84% who own a desktop or laptop. Additionally, the percentage of college students who own tablets has grown to 32% from 18% last year.

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FINANCE

Activist investor Icahn reduces Family Dollar holdings

BY Dan Berthiaume

Matthews, N.C. – Activist investor Carl Icahn, who had been pressuring Family Dollar to sell the company, has reduced his ownership stake in the company from 9.39% to 6.09%. In a regulatory filing, Icahn said that the capital he is removing from Family Dollar could produce better returns elsewhere, rather than waiting for the recently announced Dollar Tree-Family Dollar merger to close or another buyer to make an offer.

Icahn, 78, will net about $174 million in the stock sale. He has previously said that Dollar General would be the most logical buyer for Family Dollar, but so far Family Dollar has not publicly indicated it is considering an offer.

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OPERATIONS

Amazon, Blackhawk Network partner on mobile gift card capabilities

BY Dan Berthiaume

Seattle – Amazon.com and Blackhawk Network Inc., a prepaid and payments network, have teamed up to bring customers a new way to manage and spend their gift cards. Using the new Amazon Wallet app, customers can more easily store, redeem and check the balance of gift cards from dozens of major retailers and restaurants.

Amazon customers can now load information from their existing physical and digital gift cards into their Amazon Wallet. Once the information is saved, card balances can be viewed from the app or online. Customers can redeem their cards online, or present them in-store from their phones. The Amazon Wallet app comes already installed on the new Fire phone, and is also available for download to Android phones running 4.0 or above. The new gift card features are also available online at amazon.com/wallet.

"Blackhawk Network’s expertise in gift card management provides our customers with access to the retailers they want and the digital experience that Amazon is committed to delivering," said Charlie Kindel, director, Amazon Local Commerce. "Together we are helping consumers get the full value of their gift cards with the safety and convenience of storing them digitally. Instead of fearing they might lose or forget about them, they can have them on hand to use wherever and whenever they choose."

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