FINANCE

Holiday Sales Tumble

BY CSA STAFF

New York City Preliminary sales reports for the holidays paint a bleak picture for the nation’s retail industry. According to SpendingPulse, the retail data service of MasterCard Advisors, sales fell approximately 2% in November and 4% from Dec. 1 to Dec. 24. It is the steepest drop since it started tracking the data in 2002, said Michael McNamara, VP, research and analysis, MasterCard Advisors.

Leading the slump were luxury goods, which, including jewelry sales, plunged 34.5%. However, there were some sectors that fared well, keeping the total sales decline to single digits. Among those showing strength were stores that sell food, including grocery chains and big-box retailers, and some types of restaurants.

The SpendingPulse report is based on sales activity of MasterCard holders and others in the company’s payments network, plus estimates for all other forms of payment, including cash and check.

Overall, holiday sales fell as much as 4%, excluding gasoline, said SpendingPulse, which estimates U.S. retail sales across all forms of payment including check and cash.

Consumers who have contended with a yearlong recession, job losses and tight credit, largely cut their spending this holiday shopping season. U.S. retailers’ hopes that the last weekend before Christmas would bring a flurry of shoppers to stores were dashed, as poor weather kept many consumers huddled indoors.

But bad weather toward the end of the season may have helped online sales, SpendingPulse said, adding that the category showed the least decline at 2.3% compared to 2007’s holiday season.

Amazon.com said Friday it had its best holiday season ever this year, selling more than 6.3 million items worldwide on Dec. 15, its peak day.

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Sears Holdings offers after-Christmas deals

BY CSA STAFF

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. Sears Holdings announced that it will offer a number of after-Christmas discounts at its Sears and Kmart stores.

On Friday, Dec. 26, from 7:00 am – noon, Sears will offer Morning Doorbusters, plus special savings up to 75% off on home electronics’ clearance items. Additional deep discounts include 50% off Craftsmen Quiet Glide Tool Storage and 65% off all women’s fashion boots. Over at Kmart, after-Christmas deals include 50% off Jaclyn Smith women’s jeans and 25% to 75% off assorted toys.

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Wal-Mart settles most wage-related suits

BY CSA STAFF

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Wal-Mart Stores and attorneys for the plaintiffs jointly announced the settlement of 63 wage and hour class action lawsuits that have been pending against the company for several years.

Each of the settlements is subject to approval by the trial court, and the total amount to be paid will depend on the amount of claims that are submitted by class members. Under the agreements, the total will be at least $352 million, but no more than $640 million. Also, as part of the settlements, Wal-Mart has agreed to continue to use various electronic systems and other measures designed to maintain compliance with its wage and hour policies and applicable law.

As a result of the settlement, the company will record an after-tax charge to continuing operations in its fiscal fourth quarter of approximately $250 million, or approximately 6 cents per share.

“Resolving this litigation is in the best interest of our company, our shareholders and our associates,” said Tom Mars, evp and general counsel for Wal-Mart Stores. “Many of these lawsuits were filed years ago and the allegations are not representative of the company we are today.”

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