FINANCE

Deloitte holiday survey: Holiday shoppers’ spirits bright

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Shoppers are in a good mood heading into the holiday season, with the number of consumers planning to spend less on the holidays (37%) at the lowest level since 2006, according to Deloitte’s 27th annual survey of holiday spending intentions and trends. One-half (50%) of consumers surveyed expect the economy will improve next year, up from just one-third (33%) heading into the holiday season last year.

"Consumers appear to be turning a corner and are more confident about the economy," said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and retail & distribution sector leader. "Recent improvements in housing, employment and the stock market may have buoyed their spirits, but their optimism is somewhat tempered as they keep an eye on energy costs and possible tax increases.”

Survey respondents’ gift spending remains similar to last year at $386, down just slightly from $395 in 2011. Omnichannel shoppers may bring retailers the most holiday cheer: The average gift spend among consumers surveyed who plan to hit the Internet, their smartphones and stores this holiday season is $600 – a healthy 71% higher than those who plan to shop only in stores.

The shopping season, however, is not without its potential challenges for retailers. One-quarter (24%)) of survey respondents will delay their shopping until the election has been decided. But the outcome is unlikely to soften holiday budgets. One-half (50%) of consumers indicate the election will not change their spending plans and 23%s remain undecided whether the election will affect how much they spend.

Gift cards/certificates top the list of items surveyed consumers wish to receive are gift cards/certificates (45%), followed by (43%). When purchasing gifts, 51% of shoppers indicate they plan to buy clothing, and 47% plan to buy gift cards/certificates, followed by electronics (35%) and books (34%).

When shopping for the holidays, 51% plan to head to discount stores, followed by the Internet (45% ), making these the top two shopping destinations again this year.

The hunt for bargains remains a holiday tradition, according to the study, with 44% of shoppers indicating that because they expect merchandise will eventually go "on sale," they will only buy sale items. Some 38% also expect store associates to match prices.

"Consumers have come to expect value at a good price, and the stakes are high for retailers to keep promotions fresh throughout the season," Paul said,

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FINANCE

Barnes & Noble reports breach of customer credit data at stores

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Barnes & Noble said it has detected tampering with PIN pad devices that are used in 63 of its stores. Upon detecting evidence of tampering, which was limited to one compromised PIN pad in each of the affected stores, chain discontinued use of all PIN pads in its nearly 700 stores nationwide by the close of business on Sept.14.

In addition, the company notified federal law enforcement authorities, and has been supporting a federal government investigation into the matter.

Stores in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island were affected, Barnes & Noble said.

According to the retailer, the tampering was a sophisticated criminal effort to steal credit card information, debit card information, and debit card PIN numbers from customers who swiped their cards through PIN pads when they made purchases. It involved only purchases in which a customer swiped a credit or debit card in a store using one of the compromised PIN pads. The criminals planted bugs in the tampered PIN pad devices, allowing for the capture of credit card and PIN numbers.

The company advised those who have swiped their cards at stores in the affected states to change their debit-card PIN numbers as a precaution, and to review their statements for unauthorized transactions. However, the company emphasized that its customer database is secure.

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FINANCE

Signet Jewlers Ltd. to acquire Ultra Stores

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Signet Jewelers Ltd. announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Ultra Stores, Inc. from Crystal Financial LLC. and its other stockholders for approximately $57 million in cash. Ultra operates stores primarily in outlet centers, as well as licensed jewelry departments.

Signet will not assume any debt in connection with the acquisition.

"The addition of Ultra will immediately result in our having a significant share of the outlet channel for jewelry," said Michael W. Barnes, CEO of Signet Jewelers. "We had identified this rapidly growing channel as an opportunity to profitably increase our sales, enabling us to leverage our competitive strengths and add Ultra’s expertise to our team.”

Signet Jewelers’ U.S. division operates over 1,300 stores in all 50 states primarily under the name brands of Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria of Jewelry. Signet’s UK division operates approximately 500 stores primarily under the name brands of H. Samuel and Ernest Jones.

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