FINANCE

Report: Consumers more upbeat

BY CSA STAFF

New York City Consumers ended 2009 more optimistic than they have been in the past six months as the January Consumer Reports Index shows Sentiment, Stress and Trouble Tracker levels improving.

The Consumer Reports Sentiment Index has shown its first meaningful uptick since June, climbing to 44.1 from 41.8 in December. The rise in consumer sentiment is tied to a decline in the Consumer Reports Trouble Tracker Index. The Trouble Tracker, which measures the amount of financial difficulties consumers face, now stands at 58.2 — its lowest level in the past five months. 

Retail shoppers showed up for the 2009 holiday season. Purchases in December were strong building on already sizable gains in November. Consumer purchasing was up about 26% in December from the prior month. The Consumer Reports Past 30-Day Retail Index for January (reflective of December activity) rose to 14.1 from 11.2 the prior month. 

Since October, the Consumer Reports Past 30-Day Retail Index has gained 57 percent. Gains over the prior month were driven by purchasers of personal electronics (34.7%), major home electronics (15.8%) and major home appliances (9.6%).

Not surprisingly, January’s retail outlook for planned purchase in the next 30 days has retreated to 8.9, a decline of 27% from December and comparable to the pre-holiday levels of September (8.8). The drop in the Next 30-Day Retail Index was driven by a decline in intent to purchase across most categories, with the exception of major home appliances.

“There is always some level of seasonal pull back to retail spending habits in January owing to the holiday splurge. We will be looking closely at the Retail Index numbers for the first quarter of 2010 as a better indicator of how well the retail sector is fairing,” said Ed Farrell, a director of the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

The Consumer Reports Employment Index (49.3) remains statistically unchanged from the prior month and reflective of a job market that is still shedding more jobs than it’s creating. The one improvement was a decline in Americans claiming to have lost a job in the past 30 days, down to 6% from 7.4±%  the prior month.

“Our Index shows the economy is gradually improving for consumers with positive movement for many key economic indicators. Employment numbers continue to drag the economy’s recovery. It’s not just the hardships of the unemployed, it’s also the uncertainty it fosters for the future among all Americans,” Farrell said.

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Zale shakes up management

BY CSA STAFF

DALLAS Zale announced that Neal Goldberg, CEO and member of the board of directors, William Acevedo, chief stores officer, and Mary Kwan, chief merchandising officer, have left the company effective immediately. The board of directors has appointed Theo Killion, president, to the additional role of interim CEO.

Killion joined Zale in January 2008 as EVP and was appointed president in August 2008. Previously, Killion held senior management positions at Tommy Hilfiger, Limited Brands, Macy’s East and the Home Shopping Network. HE will assume initial responsibility for all store operations.

 

In addition, Zale also announced that Gil Hollander, EVP and chief sourcing and supply chain officer, has assumed the additional role of chief merchandising officer. This change will bring all aspects of diamond sourcing and merchandising under Hollander’s oversight. He has over 35 years of experience in the jewelry industry, joined Zale in September 2000 with the acquisition of Piercing Pagoda and has served in various senior management positions with the company.

“Our board is determined to do all in its power to put in place effective leadership to help return the company to profitability. At the same time, these management changes will help facilitate renewed focus on Zale’s core diamond business. We are fortunate to have executives with Theo Killion’s and Gil Hollander’s experience to assume greater leadership responsibilities as we refocus on our core strengths,” said John Lowe, Jr., chairman of Zale.

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Home Depot steps up software

BY CSA STAFF

New York City

In a deal announced at the National Retail Federation trade show here, Home Depot will transition to Fujitsu U-Scan self-checkout software, making it easier for the retailer to make upgrades to its point-of-sale system.

The new software is described by Fujitsu as an “open integration architecture utilizing a unique virtual point-of-sale like messaging framework.”

Home Depot’s Cara Kinzey, senior VP IT store, field and corporate support, explained in a prepared statement that the focus of the company’s IT efforts is to improve the shopping experience. “Fujitsu U-Scan self-checkout software will help us accelerate delivery of business-critical POS software changes to our stores,” she said. “Taking advantage of the U-Scan self-checkout software architecture’s flexibility means that we can better respond to changing business conditions, making us more efficient, competitive and responsive to customer needs.”

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