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Survey: Shoppers Seek Bargains for Holiday Shopping

BY CSA STAFF

Purchase, N.Y. Americans plan to shop smarter this year by using a variety of cost-saving strategies while spending most on practical gifts, such as gift certificates and gift cards, according to the MasterCard Worldwide 2008 Holiday Shopping Survey.

The survey found that the most popular way Americans plan to seek out bargains is by shopping with merchants offering special savings and discounts, such as free shipping or rebates (42% of holiday shoppers), while nearly one third (28%) said they plan to shop on Black Friday.

Overall, the study found that nearly one third of Americans (29%) plan to seek out bargains more than they did last year.

A plurality of holiday shoppers (26%) said they plan to spend the most this holiday season on gift certificates or gift cards, over other popular gift categories such as clothing or toys.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans said they like the idea of giving prepaid gift cards to friends and family this holiday season, while 61% like the idea of receiving them.

Younger adults (those under age 35) are the most willing to face the crowds to shop on Black Friday (48%), compared to 23% of those aged 35-54, and 15% of those aged 55 and over. The survey found shopping on Black Friday is the most popular way for young adults to save on holiday-shopping expenses this year, with shopping online being their next popular strategy (42%).

More than any other demographic, Americans aged 35-54 said they will seek out in-store “early bird” specials before 10:00 a.m. (32%) and wait for last minute deals (32%) in order to take advantage of savings this holiday season.

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Walmart to partner with Feeding America

BY CSA STAFF

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Walmart announced that its supercenters and Neighborhood Markets will partner with Feeding America, the nation’s largest charitable hunger-relief organization, to provide an estimated 90 million pounds of food annually — the equivalent of 70 million meals — to families in need by the end of 2009.

In addition, the Wal-Mart Foundation announced a $2.5 million cash donation to Feeding America. These funds will be used to help Feeding America food banks improve warehouse capacity and purchase 20 new refrigerated trucks to safely transport food from Walmart stores to food pantries, soup kitchens and other Feeding America agencies.

“We are pleased to partner with Feeding America during a time of nearly unprecedented need and provide nutritious meals for their families,” said Bill Simon, evp and coo of Walmart U.S. “Given the current state of the economy and the increased burden on neighborhood food pantries and soup kitchens, we are enlisting our entire network of stores and clubs to participate in this food donation program to provide relief to communities throughout the country.”

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Despite 3Q growth, Ross cautious on 4Q outlook

BY CSA STAFF

PLEASANTON, Calif. Ross Stores reported that earnings per share for the third quarter increased 22% to 44 cents, from 36 cents for the same period last year. Net earnings for the third quarter were $57.3 million, up from $48.7 million for the third quarter last year. Fiscal 2008 third quarter sales increased 6% to $1.555 billion, with comparable-store sales even with the prior year period.

Michael Balmuth, vice chairman, president and ceo, commented, “We are pleased with our solid third quarter earnings growth, especially considering the very challenging macro-economic and retail environment. The ongoing resilience and flexibility of our off-price business model enabled us to respond to these external pressures by further reducing both inventories and expenses. These actions, along with better-than-expected shortage results from our annual physical inventory during the quarter, enabled us to protect profit margins and deliver earnings per share at the high end of our original guidance.”

Ross said it now expects fourth quarter comparable-store sales to decline 1% to 3% and earnings per share to be in the range of 69 cents to 75 cents, compared to 70 cents in the 2007 fourth quarter.

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