FINANCE

Retail sales up 6% from last year

BY Dan Berthiaume

Washington, D.C. – U.S. retail and food services sales totaled $422.8 billion last month, according to new advance estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. This represents a 0.4% increase from $421.2 billion in the prior month, and a more substantial 5.7% increase from $399.9 billion in the same month last year.

Non-store retailers, motor vehicle and parts dealers and building material, garden equipment and supplies dealers showed especially strong increases in sales from June 2012. Gains from May 2013 were less dramatic, but furniture and home furnishings stores had the largest growth. Electronics and appliance stores was the only retail category to post a reduction in year-over-year sales, a slight 0.3%, while categories including miscellaneous store retailers and building material, garden equipment and supplies dealers posted small decreases in sales compared to the prior month.

Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis for The Conference Board, said a better labor market is helping to boost consumer spending.

“Consumer spending is maintaining momentum as consumer confidence gains some strength,” said Bostjancic. “Job growth has bolstered confidence and wage growth has begun a modest upward trend. However, excluding auto and gasoline, sales edged down. That said, having spent the past few years paying off debt, consumers can finally put into play some long delayed replacement purchasing. These factors are behind the recent gain in retail spending. What’s more, they suggest spending will speed up a little through the summer. Unless conditions change substantially, these developments are very likely to continue into the fall, perhaps right into the holiday season.”

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FINANCE

Loblaw to acquire Shoppers Drug Mart in $12 billion deal

BY Dan Berthiaume

Brampton, Ontario – Loblaw Companies Limited announced it will acquire Shoppers Drug Mart in a deal worth about $11.9 billion, merging the Canadian grocery and drug retailers. Shoppers Drug Mart will retain its name and brand and operate as a separate division of Loblaw while expanding its product offerings to include Loblaw’s private label and convenience food products. Shoppers Drug Mart gives Loblaw entry into the small urban store sector.

"Our customer proposition is at the heart of this combination," said Vicente Trius, president of Loblaw. "Together, we will be able to significantly enhance the customer experience by offering even greater assortments, service, value and convenience while preserving the unique shopping experiences that make both companies leaders in their respective segments.”

Trius said that Shoppers Drug Mart, which will be maintained as a separate division from Loblaw, will be led by Domenic Pilla, president and CEO.

The transaction is slated to be completed within about six months.

“For our shareholders, this transaction provides significant and immediate value,” said Pilla. For “our customers, it provides more locations with an enhanced mix of products and offerings that contribute to the good health of Canadians."

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Virtual Piggy has robotastic news for kids

BY CSA STAFF

LOS ANGELES — Virtual Piggy has integrated its youth-friendly payment system to Innovation First International, the company behind the award-winning Hexbug Micro Robotic Creatures and Vex Robotics product lines.

Innovation First International is a technology and engineering company that has launched several robotics product lines spanning the consumer toy, STEM education and business-to-business markets.

Earlier this year, McDonald’s partnered with Innovation First to offer an assortment of Hexbug-themed Happy Meal toys. The company’s Hexbug products have also been recognized on several occasions by the Toy Industry Association. Hexbug products are available in more than 4,000 outlets globally, including Walmart, Target, Toys “R” Us, RadioShack and other mass and specialty retailers.

Virtual Piggy is integrated directly into Innovation First International’s Hexbug e-commerce platform to allow direct online and mobile purchases. Virtual Piggy has a standard interface to eBay’s Magento e-commerce platform, which facilitates a simple and rapid integration.

“Partnering with Virtual Piggy is a great step forward for our e-commerce platforms,” said Tony Norman, president and CEO of Innovation First International. “Virtual Piggy’s Coppa-compliant family wallet gives more kids access to our robotics products, allowing them to spend safely, while also shaping them to become independent thinkers and responsible decision-makers, and yet parents still maintain the overall control.”

“We are delighted to provide the ability for youth to safely purchase the Vex Robotics kits & Hexbug Micro Robotic Creatures they love,” said Dr. Jo Webber, founder and CEO of Virtual Piggy. “We are honored to work with such an innovative company as Innovation First, to provide children younger than 18 years of age with safe access to these incredibly creative robotic toys and competitive robotics platforms.”

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