FINANCE

Reports: Sears and Urban Outfitters among those eyeing J. Crew

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — Reports circulated Wednesday that several potential suitors, including Sears Holdings and Urban Outfitters, have been studying J. Crew’s books. Urban Outfitters is seriously weighing a counterbid for the high-flying preppy retailer, according to a report in The New York Times. At least two other private-equity firms are also receiving confidential data on the New York-based retailer, Bloomberg reported.

Still, it is not clear that either — or any other bidder, including several buyout firms — will make a firm counteroffer, the report said.

J. Crew agreed on Nov. 23 to sell itself for $43.50 a share to buyout firms TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners. The agreement included a “go-shop” provision that allows the company to entertain rival offers until Jan. 15.

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FINANCE

MasterCard: Strong growth in December across many retail sectors

BY CSA STAFF

Purchase, N.Y. — Retail growth in December sales was robust across many categories, further building on November’s positive results, with some performing at better than pre-recession levels, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which tracks national retail and services sales.

“With many retail industry sectors recording strong growth in December, we are now seeing positive momentum that is more substantial than the short surge in spending we saw in first quarter 2010,” said Michael McNamara, VP, research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse. “In December, some sectors performed at better than 2007 spending levels. Those include total apparel, automotive parts and services, e-commerce and grocery.”

Sectors that have lagged in performance compared with pre-recession levels include women’s apparel, electronics, furniture and furnishings, jewelry and luxury.

In terms of sector specifics, December 2010 had more positive than negative stories, owing to the generally strong holiday season:

Year-over-year total apparel sales in December saw the third consecutive monthly increase. At 10.9% this was the year’s most vigorous monthly year-over-year growth rate, and the highest posting since March 2007. All of apparel’s sub-sectors posted strong increases with the family and children’s categories helping to drive robust year-over-year growth within the sector. In 2010, total apparel has enjoyed nine out of 12 months of year-over-year gains.

The electronics and appliances sector posted a year-over-year increase of 1.2% in December, following two consecutive months of year-over-year declines. The consumer electronics sub-category was up 1.5% year-over-year for December, though overall dollar spending levels suffered due to some decline in pricing power on the larger ticket items such as TVs. The appliance sub-category declined by1.3%.

Continuing to gain share at a steady rate, the e-commerce channel grew 17.6% year over year in December, the highest year-over-year increase since December 2007. Much of the growth was driven by the online total apparel sub-category, which grew 28.2% year over year.

December is a key month for sales in the jewelry sector, and this month, jewelry sales posted a double digit growth rate year over year, increasing 10.4%.

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FINANCE

comScore: Total online spending sets record $32.6 billion

BY CSA STAFF

Reston, Va. — Retail e-commerce spending for the entire November — December 2010 holiday season reached $32.6 billion, marking a 12% increase versus last year and an all-time record for the season, according to comScore.

“The 2010 online holiday shopping season was a memorable one in which we saw spending rebound strongly from the recession of 2008 and 2009, and slightly exceed even our early expectations,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “We saw spending increase at a rate of 12% for the season, outpacing our forecasted 11% growth, and set a new holiday season record as total e-commerce spending reached $32.6 billion.”

According to Fulgoni, retailers targeted many of their holiday promotions even earlier than usual in 2010 and reaped the benefits.

“The season will be remembered for an exceptional Cyber Monday, which was the first billion-dollar spending day in history, and the first time we’ve witnessed Cyber Monday rank as the heaviest online spending day of the year,” he added. “And of course, we cannot forget the impact of free shipping, which was used in more than half of all e-commerce transactions this season, up significantly from last year.”

For the first time since comScore began tracking e-commerce activity in 2001, Cyber Monday (Monday, Nov. 29) ranked as the heaviest online spending day of the year at $1.028 billion. It also registers as the first online spending day on record to surpass the $1 billion spending threshold. Green Monday (Monday, Dec. 13) ranked as the second heaviest day at $954 million, followed by Monday, Dec. 6 at $943 million. Free Shipping Day (Friday, Dec. 17) ranked fourth at $942 million, while Thursday, Dec. 16 rounded out the Top 5 with $930 million. Eight days in total surpassed $900 million in spending this holiday season.

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