FINANCE

Report: Small uptick in August sales

BY CSA STAFF

A report released Wednesday by MasterCard Advisors found that, in August, sales in most categories recorded a slight year-over-year uptick compared to the year-over-year performance of July.

According to the SpendingPulse report — based on aggregate sales activity in the MasterCard payments network, coupled with survey-based estimates for all other payment forms, including cash and check — some categories were boosted by back-to-school spending.

“Categories such as apparel and electronics appear to have been helped by the back-to-school season, which tends to peak in August, although some spending in apparel can be pushed back into September as parents delay purchasing fall and winter clothing until cooler weather conditions set in,” said Michael McNamara, VP research and analysis for SpendingPulse.

In addition, he said, the hot and dry conditions in August helped the overall restaurant sector while the continued volatile financial markets performance negatively impacted the luxury sector and, to a lesser extent, the jewelry sector. Tax-free weekends in Florida, Illinois and Massachusetts boosted results as well. “As a result, year-over-year comparisons in electronics, office supplies and apparel benefited,” he said.

Total U.S. apparel sales was back in positive territory in August, up 2.6% year-over-year, following July’s 1.1% decrease. This category, on a year-over-year basis, has been up five out of eight months this year. All sub-sectors except for women’s apparel and men’s apparel posted increases, with the children’s category up a solid 8.4% year-over-year, and family apparel up 4.1%. Footwear posted a modest increase of 0.9%. Following July’s sharp decline, men’s apparel was down only 1.9% in August, while women’s apparel, down 1.9% in July, slipped a little further in August, declining 2.7% year-over-year.

Consumer electronics and appliances showed increases on a year-over-year basis. While the consumer electronics category was up 2.3%, the appliances category recorded a 9.4% increase.

E-commerce sales growth slowed in August to 7.2%, which although well into positive territory, was the smallest year-over-year increase in 2010.

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Sales down at Borders

BY CSA STAFF

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Borders Group reported that second-quarter sales were $526.1 million, down 11.5% from the same period a year ago, with comparable-store sales declining by 6.8%. Sales were positively impacted by Borders.com, which saw a second quarter increase of 56.2% over the prior year, to $15.5 million.

The company said it generated a second-quarter loss from continuing operations of $51.6 million or 74 cents per share compared with a loss of $45.1 million or 75 cents per share for the same period a year ago, driven primarily by decreased gross margin.

“While we continue to succeed in strengthening our financial structure, we are highly focused on driving profitable sales and increasing market share,” said Mike Edwards, CEO of Borders. “Based on extensive consumer research, we are doing a number of things to excite our customers going into the critical holiday shopping season, including launching our new Borders Rewards program, which includes the new paid Borders Rewards Plus. Recognizing that online and digital will be a significant part of our business moving forward, we are focused on increasing our share of the e-book market by growing our digital offerings to position Borders as the preferred destination for digital reading.  Yet as we grow our online and digital business, we cannot underestimate the importance of our brick and mortar presence. This will be top of mind as we work on improving the in-store experience by shifting our product mix to include additional non-book products that are both compelling and relevant, and providing an escape for our customers though an inspirational in-store environment and consistent customer service.”

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Costco takes stand on on supplier treatment of animals

BY CSA STAFF

ISSAQUAH, Wash. Costco has commented on video showing the mistreatment of some young animals saying: “The company had not been aware of the issue before we saw the video. We are extremely disappointed, not only with the performance of our supplier in this instance, but with our own performance as well. We hold ourselves to a high standard, and in this case, we plainly did not perform to that standard.”

Costco said it is in the process of developing a more definitive written policy to make clear its long-standing position that any type of cruel treatment of animals is unacceptable. All of Costco’s suppliers are aware that Costco insists upon ethical treatment of all animals involved in producing products for sale in its warehouses, without exception, the company said. Costco said it has an inspection program to ensure that its suppliers are in compliance with its standards, but in this case that inspection program did not uncover the problem. The company said it takes full responsibility for this error. It will increase its vigilance in the future to see that its policies are adhered to by all of Costco’s suppliers, the company reported.

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