FINANCE

Deloitte Consumer Spending Index falls in September

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — The Deloitte Consumer Spending Index fell in September to its lowest level since May 2009, primarily due to a significant fall in home prices and deterioration in real wages. The Index tracks consumer cash flow as an indicator of future consumer spending.

"Low mortgage rates are doing little to spur home sales as banks limit lending and foreclosures continue to increase," said Carl Steidtmann, Deloitte’s chief economist and author of the monthly Index. "While energy prices have begun to ebb, their decline will do little to increase real wages and income growth and offset the other components of the Index. The housing market also remains at risk of further decline, and both the tax rate and unemployment are stagnant."

The Index, which comprises four components — tax burden, initial unemployment claims, real wages, and real home prices — fell to 2.39 from 2.51 the previous month.

"Consumers may start to re-evaluate what’s in their shopping baskets and put non-essentials back on the shelf until they feel more confident about the economy’s prospects," said Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail & distribution sector leader, Deloitte LLP. "It’s critical retailers understand consumers’ purchasing behaviors and attitudes and are prepared to make quick decisions about which items to mark down and where to hold the line this holiday season. Also, by capturing non-transactional data such as interactions with customers, call center logs, click streams and social media connections, retailers can better understand what drives customer engagement and buying decisions."

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REAL ESTATE

Wegmans opens first Massachusetts store; evokes rural theme in design

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Wegmans Food Markets has opened its first location in Massachusetts, in the town of Northborough. The 138,000-sq.-ft. store, the largest supermarket in New England, has a warm, welcoming feel.

“As you approach the store,” said Corinne Chiogna, who headed Wegmans’ design team’s effort, “there’s a rooster-themed weathervane atop a cupola in the center of a gabled roof. It’s a reminder of food’s roots in agriculture. The stonework on the face of the building, the diagonal bracing, and soft neutral colors with red accents on the roof make you think of a barn in the countryside. We chose traditional rather than trendy themes because we wanted everyone to feel comfortable in this space.”

Rural landscapes are echoed indoors, too, but with light, fun touches. As one enters the store, a hand-painted mural over the Coffee Bar is a rendering of Wegmans’ Organic Farm located on the edge of Canandaigua Lake, in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes region. Every half hour, the barn door in the mural opens, the sun lights up, and a crowing rooster pops out of the three-dimensional barn anchored in the mural.

Approximately one-third of the space is devoted to prepared foods, with another 15,000 sq. ft. for a liquor department and a 300-seat cafe. The giant store features 70,000 products and some 30 checkout lanes.

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REAL ESTATE

GoldMax targets 100 stores in Southern California by yearend

BY Marianne Wilson

Playa Vista, Calif. — GoldMax USA, which specializes in buying gold and precious metals from consumers in the United States, announced it has surpassed the 20th store milestone in Southern California with the opening of two more Los Angeles County stores. According to GoldMax co-founders Scott Garber and Jordan Sadoff, the company wants to have 100 stores in Southern California by end of 2012.

GoldMax is celebrating the opening of its 21st store on Oct. 15, in Lakewood, and its 22nd store on Oct. 22, in Torrance. GoldMax also plans to open stores in Norwalk, Santa Ana, Oceanside, Vista and Apple Valley in the next 30 to 45 days.

GoldMax, which has nearly 200 U.S. stores, has retained Present Value Properties of Tustin, Calif., as its exclusive real estate broker for California.

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