FINANCE

Retail Traffic Up With Spending Down in Holiday Start

BY CSA STAFF

New York City, Deep discounts and extended hours drew more than 147 million shoppers to U.S. stores over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday shopping period, but average consumer spending fell, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2007 Black Friday Weekend Survey. The group attributed the results to the economic uncertainty facing consumers and tough comparisons with last year.

The survey, which included data from Thursday to Saturday and projections for Sunday, showed customers spent an average of $347.44, down 3.5% from $360.15 last year.

But the decline was offset by a 4.8% increase in the number of shoppers, making the weekend’s total spending results “extremely similar” with last year, said federation spokeswoman Ellen Davis. The federation did not give a figure for total spending.

While fears about lower home values, a shaky stock market and higher costs for food and fuel could have played some role, the decline was more due to the focus this year on mid-priced items such as laptop computers and digital photo frames, vs. last year’s emphasis on expensive high-definition televisions, according to NRF.

Men once again proved to be the better Black Friday customer, according to the NRF survey. With a greater emphasis on door-buster specials in the consumer-electronics category, men outspent women $393.63 to $303.95.

Though discounters saw a dip in traffic last year, they rebounded nicely this year as 55.1% of shoppers visited discount stores, up from 49.6% in 2006. Consumers also shopped in traditional department stores (38.7%), specialty retailers (43.2%) and online (31.6%), the report said.

The most popular items purchased were clothing or clothing accessories (46.8%) as well as books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games (41.7%). Other purchases this weekend included consumer electronics (35.7%), toys (28.2%), and gift cards (21.0%).

As of Sunday, Nov. 26, the average person has completed 36.4% of their holiday shopping, showing virtually no change from last year. Only one in 12 consumers (8.2%) has finished their holiday shopping, according to the survey.

SpendingPulse, the retail data service of MasterCard Inc. unit MasterCard Advisors, estimated total spending for Friday through Sunday would reach $42 billion to $43 billion. That would be a 4.5% to 5.5% increase over last year. SpendingPulse tracks sales activity in the MasterCard payments network and couples it with estimates of all other payment forms.

This year’s increase was helped by the ever-earlier start times, according to SpendingPulse.

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BJ’s reports 8% net sales increase

BY CSA STAFF

NATICK, Mass. BJ’s Wholesale Club on Tuesday reported a net income of $22.7 million for its third quarter, a 24% jump over the prior year’s period.

The wholesaler, who experienced a $1.4 million loss in 2006 because of post-tax and discontinued operations of the company’s ProFoods Restaurant Supply clubs, is seeing nothing but green this year.

Net sales for the third quarter were approximately $2.1 billion, an increase of 8% over the third quarter of 2006, while comparable-club sales grew by 3.4%.

According to the company, strong categories included televisions, small appliances, cheese, coffee, dairy, frozen produce, juices, meat, milk, office supplies, produce, soda and water. Weaker categories over last year included apparel, automotive and tools, cigarettes, pre-recorded video, residential furniture and tires.

BJ’s ceo Herb Zarkin said sales of perishable foods rose 8%—a product category carrying high profit margins that also lifted second quarter results. “Perishable foods represent our greatest opportunity to capture market share from supermarkets,” he noted.

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Ross Stores names Froman to board

BY CSA STAFF

PLEASANTON, Calif. Ross Stores announced on Wednesday that John W. Froman has been elected to its board of directors, effective immediately.

Froman served as president and ceo of NAMCO Pool & Patio from 2005 to 2007. Prior to that, he spent almost 20 years in various management roles at Circuit City, eventually serving as its evp and coo. He began his retail career over 30 years ago at Avon Products, Inc.

“We are delighted to have John Froman join our board of directors,” said vice chairman, president and ceo Michael Balmuth. “We believe that his extensive business knowledge and in-depth retail management experience will make him a valuable resource for the Company and its stockholders.”

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