FINANCE

MasterCard report: U.S. retail sales up 4.6% in July

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — The latest SpendingPulse report from MasterCard showed that U.S. retail sales rose 4.6% year-over-year in July, the largest year-over-year gain since October 2012.

Lodging, Airlines and Restaurants were among the top categories for U.S. retail sales last month, while Automotive, Grocery and Luxury items (excluding Jewelry) were less sought after by consumers.

“By and large, the U.S. economy has shown signs of positive growth over the last few months, especially as weather in most of the country improved,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior VP, Market Insights for MasterCard Advisors. “Positive economic statistics such as new job hiring are giving consumers more confidence that the recovery is a reality. This confidence is seen in people taking vacations and dining out. They’re choosing to truly ‘experience’ the rebound.”

The rebound trend has not, however, benefitted the Apparel or Department Store categories, which showed very modest growth. Despite heavy promotions and discounting for back-to-school, their sales will likely be fairly muted as parents hold off on shopping for new clothes until the weather turns colder, according to MasterCard.

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SUPPLY CHAIN

Record imports expected as West Coast port talks continue

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — The Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates said that import volume at major U.S. container ports is expected to hit an all-time record in August.

Retailers concerned about the lack of a West Coast longshoremen’s contract are rushing to bring holiday season merchandise into the country, according to NRF.

“The negotiations appear to be going well but each week that goes by makes the situation more critical as the holiday season approaches,” NRF VP for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Retailers are making sure they are stocked up so shoppers won’t be affected regardless of what happens at the ports.”

Import volume at U.S. ports covered by the Global Port Tracker report is expected to total 1.54 million containers this month. That’s the highest monthly volume since NRF began tracking import volume in 2000, topping a previous record of 1.53 million set in July and unusually high numbers seen this spring as retailers began importing merchandise early in anticipation of this summer’s contract talks.

The contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired on July 1. Dockworkers remain on the job as both sides continue to negotiate a new agreement. Both sides have reported that talks have been “productive,” and NRF has urged both labor and management to avoid any disruptions that could affect the flow of back-to-school or holiday merchandise.



U.S. ports followed by the report handled 1.48 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 0.38% from May but up 9.1% from June 2013. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.



July was estimated at 1.53 million TEU, up 5.8% from the same month last year, and August is forecast at 1.54 million TEU, up 3.6% from last year. September is forecast at 1.48 million TEU, up 2.8% from last year; October also at 1.48 million TEU, up 3.3%; November at 1.37 million TEU, up 2%; and December at 1.34 million TEU, up 2.1%. Those numbers would bring 2014 to a total of 17.1 million TEU, an increase of 5.2% over 2013’s 16.2 million.

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REAL ESTATE

M&M’S World makes Asia debut with Shanghai flagship

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Shanghai, China — M&M’S celebrated the grand opening of its first M&M’S World store in Asia – M&M’s World Shanghai, a 17,000+-sq.-ft. entertainment destination that marks the brand’s fifth M&M’s World flagship store. Current flagships include Times Square, New York; Orlando; Las Vegas; and Leicester Square London.

Spanning two floors and combining iconic Chinese landmarks and cultural elements, the store features a large array of candies and M&M-branded merchandise.

“We are thrilled to add M&M’S World Shanghai store to our global store footprint,” said Brian Schiegg, general manager, Mars Retail Group. “Shanghai is the ideal city for the first M&M’S World store in Asia, due to the city’s truly global feel and appeal.”

The latest flagship is located in the Brilliance Shimao International Plaza on one of the busiest pedestrian streets in China. Interior design and entertainment elements include Yellow Panda in the Bamboo Garden, a large Moon Gate that previews the Great Wall of Chocolate, and daily performances by M&M’S characters.

“The opening of M&M’S World Shanghai, a partnership between the M&M’S brand and Mars Retail Group, represents a significant investment and commitment to the Chinese market by Mars, Incorporated,” said Clarence Mak, president, Mars Chocolate China.

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