FINANCE

First Data: Spending down in January as winter weather takes toll

BY Marianne Wilson

Atlanta — Consumer spending growth declined from December to January, but remained relatively healthy at 2.5%, according to First Data’s January 2014 SpendTrend report. SpendTrend tracks same-store point-of-sale data by credit, signature debit, PIN debit, EBT, closed-loop prepaid cards and checks from nearly four million U.S. merchant locations serviced by First Data. The report cited the severe winter weather that pummeled the Midwest and eastern half of the country as a factor in the decline.

Overall transaction growth of 2.1% in January also slowed from December’s growth of 3.1%. Despite the slowdown, the overall spending growth remained healthy as several categories such as food & beverage stores, general merchandise stores and building material & supply dealers saw robust growth at 3.7%, 2.1% and 4.5% respectively as consumers stocked up on necessities and winter related items in response to the unusually cold weather and potential power outages.

Retail dollar volume growth downshifted to -0.9% in January versus last month’s growth of 1.2%. The slowdown was at least partially attributable to the winter storms that affected retail purchases across much of the country.

However, dollar volume growth at general merchandise stores and building material & supply dealers remained positive with growth of 2.1% and 4.5%, and helped to offset the overall slowdown as consumers sought out winter weather supplies.

Average ticket growth of 0.4% remained relatively in-line with December’s growth of 0.2%. However, retail average ticket growth of -0.4% fell from last month’s growth of 0.4% as retailers implemented widespread discounting in preparation for spring restocking and as shoppers gravitated toward those bargains.

“The harsh weather conditions in January subdued some of the consumer spending growth and negatively impacted shopper foot-traffic; however, consumers’ also shifted their attention toward basic commodities versus more discretionary items in preparation and response to the severe weather,” said Krish Mantripragada, senior VP, information and analytics solutions, First Data. “Spending on credit continued to exhibit healthy growth in January as lending standards continued to ease and consumer confident levels remained relatively positive.”

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OPERATIONS

Amazon to hire 2,500 nationwide to staff fulfillment centers

BY Marianne Wilson

Seattle — Amazon said it is hiring more than 2,500 full-time workers at order-fulfillment centers across the country.

"Today, we’re excited to announce 2,500 full-time jobs, bringing new employment opportunities to local communities across the country," said Mike Roth, Amazon’s VP of North America operations, in a company statement.

The online giant said the jobs include picking, packing and shipping customer orders, and are available in Chester, Va.; Coffeyville, Kan.; Columbia, S.C.; Dupont, Wash.; Murfreesboro, Tenn.; and Petersburg, Va.

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REAL ESTATE

Casey’s General Stores to acquire 24 Stop-n-Go locations

BY Marianne Wilson

Ankeny, Iowa — Casey’s General Stores announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire 24 Stop-n-Go locations. Twenty of the stores are located in North Dakota and four are located in Minnesota.

“We are excited about the opportunity to acquire the Stop-n-Go chain as they are a well-managed and established group of stores in a relatively new market area for Casey’s,” said Robert Myers, president and CEO. “This acquisition will be accretive to earnings in the first year of operation and will provide future earnings enhancements as we realize operating efficiencies and integrate our prepared food operations.”

Myers continued, “We hope this acquisition serves as a springboard for more Casey’s locations in the area as we continue to look for opportunities to build and buy stores in the upper Midwest.”

The transaction is expected to close in May 2014, and will be funded by a combination of existing cash and operating cash flow.

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