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Merchants to appeal preliminary ruling in proposed interchange settlement

BY Marianne Wilson

Washington, D.C. — On Tuesday, a majority of named class plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal to challenge a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granting preliminary approval to a proposed settlement of a long-standing antitrust class action filed by merchants against Visa, MasterCard and the largest banks. The merchant group will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to deny preliminary approval due to the legal defects in the proposed settlement.

More than 1,200 merchants have weighed in with the courts in opposition to the settlement on the grounds that it locks in the broken interchange system, deprives merchants of their right to fight the anticompetitive practices of the Visa, MasterCard duopoly in court, and constrains innovations that could bring competition to the marketplace, such as mobile technology.

"This settlement has fatal legal defects and should not get preliminary approval. We look forward to presenting the problems we see in this proposal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.," said Jeffrey Shinder, managing partner, Constantine Cannon, LLC, counsel to the merchants objecting to the proposed settlement.

The named class plaintiffs opposing the proposed settlement of the case are Affiliated Foods Midwest, Coborn’s, Inc., D’Agostino Supermarkets, Jetro Holdings LLC, National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), NATSO, National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), National Grocers Association (NGA), and National Restaurant Association (NRA).

The named class plaintiffs were joined in multiple briefs filed with the court from nearly 1200 small businesses and recognized retail brands, ranging from 7-Eleven and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. to The Gap and Wal-Mart Stores, and a variety of associations including the National Retail Federation and Retail Industry Leaders Association.

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Consumer confidence rises to four-year high in November

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — A report released Tuesday by the Conference Board showed that consumer confidence rose in November to the highest level in more than four years.

The confidence index climbed to 73.7, the highest since February 2008, from a revised 73.1 reading the prior month, indicating that U.S. household spending will keep growing.

A median forecast of 75 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a reading of 73.

“Confidence is holding up well,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York, told Bloomberg. “Spending is going to continue to increase. This bodes well for the fourth quarter.”

The gain in confidence may have been restrained by a plunge in the Middle Atlantic region, the area covering New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania that was most affected by superstorm Sandy. That area’s index dropped 14.6 points to a three-month low of 54.2.

Among other measures, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index climbed in November to a five- year high, while the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index last week hovered near the strongest point in seven months.

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ShopperTrak: Foot traffic up 8.2% during ‘Black Weekend’

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Chicago — ShopperTrak reported Tuesday that it estimates retail foot traffic over the Black Weekend shopping period rose 8.2% year-over-year. That equates to more than 594 million store visits between Thursday and Monday.

Retail sales increased 2.7%, with shoppers spending about $22 billion across the weekend’s four days. Thursday’s "door-buster" deals drove sales and traffic earlier in the weekend.

"Shoppers follow value. And this year, for the first time, retailers presented significant value for shopping on Thanksgiving Day," said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder. "So even though retail sales were slightly down on Black Friday, traffic and sales for the weekend as a whole increased over 2011."

Last year, "Black Weekend" (Thursday through Sunday) accounted for 8.6% of sales during the entire holiday season of November and December. According to Martin, the importance of a single shopping day such as "Black Friday" may be changing as retailers promote the holiday season earlier and expand promotions across more days.

"The Monday through Wednesday before Thanksgiving had foot traffic increases as well," said Martin. "This indicates that some retailers are turning ‘Black Friday’ into a week-long event, and more consumers are visiting stores earlier in the week."

During "Black Weekend" 2011, shoppers spent $21.4 billion, compared to this year’s $22 billion. Though Friday’s sales dipped a bit, both Saturday and Sunday saw foot traffic and sales increases when compared to last year.

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