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Survey: Intense Back-to-School Selling Season

BY CSA STAFF

Schaumburg, Ill. Latest research from The Nielsen Co. showed that consumers won’t be skimping on supplies, despite the tightened economy.

Nielsen forecasted 2.6% growth, or more than $1.57 billion in school and office-supply sales in U.S. grocery, drug and mass-merchandiser stores during the core back-to-school season of mid-July through early September.

Back-to-school sales represent more than a quarter (28%) of the school and office-supply category’s annual sales of $5.5 billion.

The survey showed that the top five back-to-school supply categories (accounting for 64% of sales) were school/office paper and forms; personal planners, binders and folders; pens and pencils; ink jet and toner cartridges; and markers.

“Consumers may be cutting back in terms of discretionary spending, but they are not about to send their kids to school without the necessities,” said James Russo, VP of marketing, food and beverage sector, The Nielsen Co. “While we don’t expect to see a drop in back-to- school sales in this economic downturn, we do foresee changes in where consumers shop for back-to-school items, along with the prices they are willing to pay.”

With nearly 100% household penetration, Nielsen found that grocery stores may prove to be the winner this season, as consumers seek to combine shopping trips. Nielsen In-Store research showed that in August and September 2007, nearly 850 million consumers visited measured grocery stores, compared to an average two-month period of slightly more than 500 million consumers. Grocery stores saw more than 105 million consumers visit the home, school and office-supply departments during the back-to-school period, marked by an increase in traffic mid-August and a traffic spike during the first week of September.

More than 1.3 billion consumers visited measured mass merchandisers in August and September 2007, with 162 million consumers shopping the home, school and office-supply departments, and the highest level of traffic taking place during the first week of August.

For 2008, Nielsen predicts a shorter but more intense back-to-school selling season, as consumers are likely to delay the start of their shopping, opting to hold out for increasingly aggressive sales and promotional activity by retailers.

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Steve & Barry’s files ‘Stalking Horse’ agreement

BY CSA STAFF

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. Steve & Barry’s announced that it has filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York a “stalking horse” Asset Purchase Agreement with BH S&B Holding LLC, a newly-formed subsidiary of investment firm Bay Harbour Management.

Under the terms of the agreement, BH S&B Holdings would acquire certain company assets for $163 million. Subject to acceptable negotiation of lease terms prior to the final auction date, BH S&B Holdings’ expressed intent is to continue to operate the chain of Steve & Barry’s retail stores as a going concern, with current staff and key facilities, including the company’s New York headquarters, Columbus, Ohio distribution center and certain overseas offices.

The assets to be acquired include certain Steve & Barry’s store leases; all Steve & Barry’s merchandise, with the exclusion of any product located at stores not purchased by BH S&B Holdings; and all Steve & Barry’s intellectual property rights, including its celebrity and brand licenses. Further due diligence will determine which Steve & Barry’s renegotiated store leases BH S&B Holdings would acquire should the Asset Purchase Agreement be approved by the Court.

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Office Depot Foundation, Carl Edwards give backpacks to Miami kids

BY CSA STAFF

MIAMI Office Depot, through its Office Depot Foundation, with the help of Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, will donate more than 6,500 backpacks to non-profit organizations and schools in Miami-Dade County on Wednesday, Aug. 6. Through its National Backpack Program, the Office Depot Foundation has provided nearly 1.8 million free backpacks to children since 2001.

Through this year’s National Backpack Program, the Office Depot Foundation is donating 300,000 backpacks to a variety of non-profit organizations and schools across the United States and Canada. The recipients, in turn, provide the backpacks to deserving children whom they serve through their programs or in their classrooms. The Foundation will also host backpack presentation events in Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach and West Palm Beach on Aug. 6.

“Education is the foundation for success, and I’m really excited to partner with Office Depot and the Office Depot Foundation for another season of backpack donations,” said Edwards, a former substitute teacher, who is sponsored by South Florida-based Office Depot. “Every student deserves to return to school with the tools they need to succeed, and the Office Depot Foundation is doing a great thing to make that happen for so many kids who might not otherwise have the necessary resources.”

Office Depot Foundation president Mary Wong says that making a difference to children is precisely the point of the National Backpack Program. “By placing backpacks containing essential school supplies into the hands of children, we are giving them important tools they need to start school with confidence–and to succeed throughout the year,” she said. “The National Backpack Program is one of the key ways in which we seek to accomplish the Foundation’s mission–Listen Learn Care–and to achieve our strategic priority of helping children get ready for life and work.”

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