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Office Depot report: Small business confidence rising

BY CSA STAFF

Boca Raton, Fla. Office Depot on Tuesday released the results of its October Office Depot Small Business Index, which showed improving attitudes among small- and medium-sized business owners.

The monthly index, which gauges the economic trends of small businesses in America — indicated that small business confidence has significantly increased in terms of overall economic forecast for the next six months, with more businesses anticipating higher company sales, profits and capital spending. More than a quarter (26%) of October respondents said their small businesses will be hiring new employees in the next six months, compared with 19% in September.

When asked why they’ll be hiring, more respondents in the October Small Business Index indicated that their “business is improving” (October 65% versus September 48%) and that they feel that there is greater “economic certainty/stability” (October 24% versus September 19%).

“What we are hearing is that many small businesses are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel — unfortunately nobody knows for sure what that light is,” said Neil Austrian, interim chairman and CEO for Office Depot. “With elections just around the corner and a new year on the horizon, there are a number of variables that will continue to influence SMB confidence throughout the fourth quarter.”

For purposes of its monthly survey, Office Depot defines small businesses as those with one to five employees, and medium-sized businesses with up to 20-99 employees.

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Survey: Holiday sales to hit $519 billion; strongest growth will be in electronics

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — Holiday retail sales will grow by a strong 4.5% [+/- 0.5%] year-over-year to a record $519 billion, according to retail consulting and research firm Customer Growth Partners, New Canaan, Conn.

“Consumers have endured over two years of economic body blows, but have been slowly picking themselves off the mat since last year, despite the employment woes,” said Craig Johnson, president Consumer Growth Partners (CPG). “The 83% of Americans with full-time jobs are beginning to spend again, and they will drive retailers to the best year-over-over holiday sales growth since 2005.”

CGP’s 4.5% forecast for the November-December holiday shopping season is above consensus estimates of 2% to 3% growth (National Retail Federation has forecast growth of 2.3%). The CGP forecast includes direct-to-consumer sales, primarily e-commerce sales, which are excluded in NRF’s forecast. Direct sales have been the fastest growing segment of retail since the 1990’s, and in 2009 represented some 10% of total holiday sales.

  • Among merchandise categories, the strongest growth will come in electronics and appliances, up some 6%, led primarily by e-reader, iPad and mobile phone growth — and secondarily by major appliances, which will exceed their surprise performance at last year’s Black Friday sales.
  • Pent-up demand will drive home-related categories to their strongest growth in half a decade, over 5%, including both home-furnishings and home-improvement retailers.
  • Discount and other value retailers will continue to shine in holiday 2010, led by off-price retailers such as TJX and Ross Stores, low-priced “fast fashionistas” such as Forever 21 H&M and Love Culture, and big boxers such as Costco and an outperforming Target.
  • Sweaters will remain the single most common holiday gift — and may well see a sharp increase as consumers stock up before near Civil War record cotton prices work their way through the supply chain early next year.
  • Traditional holiday retail categories will enjoy a stellar year, including luxury segments such as jewelry, and toys, where expanded distribution — e.g. Toys “R” Us’ pop-up stores — and strong competition from Walmart and Target will drive sales.

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Subway opens 500 locations in third quarter

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — Subway announced that it opened 500 new locations in third quarter 2010, or from July 1 to Sept. 30. The chain said its franchisees opened units in 45 counties, 42 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and four Canadian provinces.

Highlights for the period include reaching more than 33,500 locations worldwide, of which 9,900 can be found in international markets. Of special note is the milestone of 1,100 restaurants reached by the McLean, Va.-Subway Development Corp. of Washington, the company that oversees the chain’s single largest development territory, which includes all of Virginia and Delaware, Washington, D.C., and most of Maryland.

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