FINANCE

MasterCard: Retail sales show broad-based recovery in April

BY Marianne Wilson

Purchase, N.Y. — After several months of sluggish retail sales, consumer shopping in the U.S. rebounded in April, according to the latest MasterCard SpendingPulse report, which aggregate national retail sales activity in the MasterCard payments network, coupled with estimates for all other payment forms, including cash and check.

Total U.S. retail sales grew 4.4% year-over-year, a significant comeback from the 2.2% growth in March, and the strongest growth since December of last year. The recovery extended broadly across every retail industry sector tracked by SpendingPulse.

“Improving weather, lower gas prices and a calendar shift for Easter from March of last year to April this year, all had impacts on retail sales growth, according to MasterCard’s analysis,” said Sarah Quinlan, senior VP market insights, MasterCard Advisors. "The bulk of April’s gains seems to have come from a particularly strong shopping run in the week leading up to Easter, with momentum cooling quickly in the last week of the month.”

The long-term outlook may still be cautious, but retailers across the board had a big win in April. Most notably, the apparel category, which has seen sales decline for several consecutive months, had the highest growth in April since January 2013. Specialty and family apparel were particularly hot items. Other big category winners were lodging and grocery, which both grew nearly 10% in April.

"April’s gains do not make up for last quarter’s sluggishness, when year-to-year growth rates slipped for three consecutive months," said Quinlan. "But we’ve been saying that warmer weather would bring improved sales, and with April’s spring temperatures, every industry sector seems to have shrugged off the weakness of earlier this year and made a strong comeback."

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OPERATIONS

And the best department store in the world is…

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — The United Kingdom’s Selfridges was named ‘Best Department Store in the World’ for the third consecutive time by the Intercontinental Group of Department Stores (IGDS). The award was given at the group’s Global Department Store Summit, which was held last week. The event is held every other year.

Selfridges was in competition for the award with Macy’s and the German retailer Breuninger.

“We are thrilled that Selfridges has again been recognized as the best department store in the world," said Anne Pitcher, managing director of Selfridges & Co. “We have had a terrific couple of years since last winning, and it is a tribute to the commitment of our teams that we have been honored with the award again this year. It gives us even greater impetus to continue to exceed our customers’ expectations and deliver to them a unique and extraordinary shopping experience.”

IGDS is the largest association of department stores worldwide and has 37 members from 35 countries on five continents.

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News

Citi to let banking customers use reward points to pay bills

BY CSA STAFF

Citi is now offering its checking account customers the ability to use reward points to pay their bills. Citi ThankYou Rewards members can earn ThankYou points across their Citi banking and credit card relationship and use these points to pay virtually any bill online including phone, cable and electricity.

"We want our members to have the choice of using their points when and how they want," said Mary Hines Droesch, head of ThankYou Rewards at Citi. "Whether you want to pay this month’s cell phone or utility bill due next week, ThankYou Rewards lets you decide how you use your points."

Customers wishing to use their reward points toward bills will need to log on to citibank.com, go to Pay Bills, and select Make a One-Time Payment and a payee. From there, they should select the ThankYou Rewards Account and enter the dollar amount of the payment that they’d like to cover using ThankYou Points. To use both points and cash to pay a bill, customers need to enter the dollar amount they want to cover using points and the remaining cash amount from their checking accounts.

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