Retailers Cater to College Students
New York City, The back-to-school season may have a new focus. College students are increasingly interested in decorating their dorm rooms, and they are willing to pay plenty to do it. According to National Retail Federation, college students spent $2.6 billion in dorm room furnishings in 2004. That number does not include the $7.5 billion spent on electronics.
Retailers have responded to this market by offering new dorm-room furnishings, such as more brightly colored backrests and beanbag chairs. Companies are also implementing unique incentives for students. For example, Target Corp. plans to give students free roundtrip bus trips from university campuses and Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. and Linens ’n Things Inc. now have dorm registries on their Web sites.
Wal-Mart Asks Court to Dismiss Bias Case
San Francisco, Wal-Mart Stores urged a federal appeals court on Monday to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that female employees were discriminated against in pay, promotions and training. The retailer is appealing a federal judge’s decision to let the nation’s largest employment discrimination lawsuit go to trial. The chain says the conventional rules of class actions should not apply in this case because its 3,400 stores operate like independent businesses. The suit, which claims that as many as 1.6 million current and former female employees earned less than men and were bypassed for promotions, could cost the retailer an estimated billions of dollars.
Wal-Mart attorney Theodore Boutrous told a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that female Wal-Mart employees were not discriminated against and that the charges of the six lead plaintiffs were not typical or common of the entire class. He also argued that the lower court’s decision stripped Wal-Mart of its right to defend itself by ruling that the retailer could not call individual store managers to the stand to testify, for example, that there was no bias against women.
Plaintiff attorney Brad Seligman told the judges that they should let the case proceed as class action to prevent Wal-Mart from challenging each individual class member on an individual basis.
Judge Harry Pregerson said that the circuit was not litigating the merits of the case. Pregerson said the appeals court was reviewing whether a federal judge abused his discretion in allowing the case to go to trial.
The three-judge panel’s decision on whether the case can go to trial will likely not come for months. The judges grilled both sides during the 40-minute hearing.
Bad July for U.K. Retailers
London, U.K. retailers have their poorest July in 10 years as confidence was hit by a series of terrorist attacks in London and stagnating house prices that curbed consumer spending, the British Retail Consortium said. Same-store sales fell for the fourth successive month, sliding 1.9% from July last year. The drop followed a 0.5% decline in June.
On July 7, London was rocked by four explosion. A series of failed bomb attacks occurred two weeks later. Given events, experts say, the decline in sales during July could have been much worse.
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee last week pared its benchmark interest rate for the first time in two years to 4.5%, saying there are “downside risks” to consumer spending. House-price growth slowed to a 10-year low in England and Wales during May, June and July.