Report: Sluggish Growth Seen for Holiday Sales
New York City, Holiday sales are expected to rise at their slowest pace in five years as the weak housing market and a credit crunch temper consumer spending, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said on Thursday.
Total holiday retail sales are forecast to rise 4% to $474.5 billion this year, the trade group said. According to the NRF, that would mark the slowest holiday sales growth since 2002, when sales rose 1.3%. It also would fall below the 10-year holiday sales average of a 4.8% increase.
Many retailers have already warned the second half of the year will be more difficult than the first as consumers confront a weaker housing market, and higher fuel and food costs.
Last year, holiday sales rose 4.4%, which was below the NRF’s initial forecast of a 5% gain, as unseasonably warm weather and the slower housing market crimped spending.
Borders to launch new Web site, breaks ties with Amazon
ANN ARBOR, Mich. As a way to separate from its well-known online partner, Borders Group Inc. has announced the launch of its new beta version Web site, the company said Wednesday.
While the site is set to officially launch during the first quarter of fiscal year 2008, it is still in early stages of completion. The Web site is said to include videos, Borders Book Club resources, and sample pages from books.
In addition to a new, independent website, Borders also plans to make changes to its retail stores, adding interactive features via kiosks.
Borders is also employing the services of ChoiceStream to provide revenue-driving product recommendations to Borders’ shoppers through its in-store computer search stations and its upcoming online store, driving the discovery of new books, music and movies.
Borders and online retailer Amazon have worked alongside each other for more than five years. Amazon has agreements with several other well-known retailers like Babies “R” Us. In May, Borders announced that it hired AT&T subsidiary Sterling Open Management to manage the new site.
Wal-Mart improves workers’ health benefits
Bentonville, Arkansas Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will be improving the health benefits packages provided to its full and part-time associates, the company announced today.
As one of the largest retailers in the world, Wal-Mart is providing its employees more options geared toward their personal needs. The 2008 benefits package includes reduced deductibles, pre-deductible health care credits and $4 co-pays for over 2,400 covered generic prescriptions. The generic prescription program, the company believes, will save associates approximately $25 million in 2008. The company’s open enrollment period will start September 22.
“We worked closely with our associates to design an even more affordable health benefits package based on what they told us they wanted and needed,” said Linda Dillman, evp of risk management, benefits and sustainability. “Ninety percent of our associates now have health insurance and we want that number to increase. Our health coverage next year will be even stronger, offer more options and give people more tools to help them save money and live better lives.”