FINANCE

MasterCard Advisors: Total U.S. retail sales for January up 5.5%

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — Total retail sales (excluding autos) grew by 5.5% year-over-year, on par with December’s growth rate, and slightly higher than November’s, according to MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse. SpendingPulse reports on national retail and services sales and is based on aggregate sales activity in the MasterCard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for all other payment forms

Strong sales also led to a rebound in shorter-term growth — on a month-to-month seasonally adjusted basis, January sales were up by 1.8%, reversing the slowdown that month-to-month sales had posted in December, the report found. Excluding both auto sales and gasoline, on a seasonally unadjusted basis, year-over-year sales in January grew by 4.6%, slightly slower than November and December 2010, but nevertheless a healthy rate of growth by most standards.

“Overall, retail spending managed to maintain its momentum following an already-strong holiday season,” said Kamalesh Rao, director of economic research for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. “Despite some very challenging weather conditions in many parts of the country, and unemployment numbers that have not yet improved significantly, during the last two months we saw the strongest growth rate for total U.S. retail sales ex-autos since April 2010. Further, the year-to-year growth for three-month totals stood at 4.9% in January, the highest growth rate since August 2007.”

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OPERATIONS

Wal-Mart appoints VP Global Consumer Insights

BY CSA STAFF

Bentonville, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores named Cindy Davis as executive VP Global Consumer Insights. In the position, she will lead the newly created Global Customer Insights team, helping both Walmart and Sam’s Club understand broad consumer trends, provide insight into customers’ needs across the world and create advanced analytical tools to support the business.

Davis most recently served as executive VP membership, marketing and e-commerce at the Sam’s Club warehouse store division. A successor in that role will be named at a later date, Wal-Mart said.

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FINANCE

Report: Barnes & Noble targets Amazon affiliates involved in sales tax fight

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — Barnes & Noble invited Amazon.com’s affiliates to join its program instead in an "open letter" Monday, as Amazon continues to oppose legislation that requires it to collect sales taxes in several states, the Associated Press reported.

Affiliates are website and blog operators who link to the retailers’ sites. If someone follows the link and buys a product through Amazon or Barnes & Noble, for example, the websites get a cut. Amazon says if it does not have a physical presence in a state, it shouldn’t have to collect sales taxes. The states say it does, because it has a network of local affiliates who do have a local presence.

Amazon has cut ties with affiliates in states including Rhode Island, Colorado and North Carolina over the tax issue. The company does collect sales taxes in some states, including its home state of Washington.

Barnes & Noble said it collects and remits sales tax due from its online sales, and added that terminated Amazon affiliates are "welcome to join" its affiliate program.

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