U.S. retail sales rise a better-than-expected 0.4% in August
Washington, D.C. The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that retail sales rose 0.4% in the month of August, representing the second straight increase and the largest gain since March. Core retail sales — without autos, fuel and building materials — rose 0.6% in August, also the biggest increase since March.
The August retail report eased fears that the country was entering into a double-dip recession and suggests that consumer spending will continue at a modest pace in the third quarter.
In a separate report, the department said inventories held by businesses jumped in July by the largest amount in two years while sales rebounded after two months of declines.
Consumer spending rose at a 2.0% annual pace in the second quarter, and economists expect spending to roughly match that pace in the current quarter. August sales by category, which were likely helped by back-to-school shopping, included a rise in apparel sales of 1.2%, the most since March.
Sales at general merchandise stores rose 0.4%, including a 0.4% gain at department stores. Sales at food stores increased 1.3%, the government reported. Sales at electronics and appliances stores fell 1.1%. Sales at furniture stores fell 0.5%. Sales at building-supply stores were flat. Sales at stores catering to leisure-time activities, such as reading and music, rose 0.9%. Sales at health- and personal-care stores increased 0.6%. Sales at restaurants and bars edged up 0.1%.
“Most Americans are in a much better financial position than a year ago, but they are still spending cautiously, looking for bargains and comparing prices before buying,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, about the latest findings. “While the underlying trends remain positive, shoppers are still focused on getting their finances in order,” added NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “The challenge for retailers is to convince consumers that the recession is over and to buy accordingly.”
Sears looks to re-brand image with women
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. Sears announced that it has launched “The Many Sides of Me” campaign in order to re-engage women in the Sears brand.
“We have executed against a range of initiatives tied to our strategic pillars that have improved our relevance to customers, including engaging them on a personal level,” said Scott Freidheim, EVP operating and support businesses for Sears Holdings. “With this launch, we’re on a path to ‘Feminize, Energize and Digitize’ the Sears soft side brand positioning.”
As an extension of “The Many Sides of Me” print campaign in key September fashion issues, the brand is also collaborating with leading titles Vogue and Lucky and will be featured on their digital shopping platforms, the company reported. The collaboration will enable customers to shop and buy Sears Fall fashion merchandise on the Vogue Stylist and Lucky at Your Service apps for the Apple iPhone.
Additionally, as part of the ongoing Sears brand strategy of developing personal digital relationships with customers, the campaign features a new digital destination to engage women in the multi-channel “The Many Sides of Me” experience. At TheManySidesOfMe.com, customers can browse the collection, as well as participate in a digital contest that invites women to share their multi-faceted lives and how they make their personal, versatile style work.
Whole Foods launches color-coded seafood rating system
AUSTIN, Texas Whole Foods Market announced that it has launched the first in-store color-coded sustainability-rating program for wild-caught seafood and commits to phasing out all red-rated species by Earth Day 2013.
The company worked with Blue Ocean and Monterey Bay Aquarium to develop an easy-to-follow system to help customers choose sustainable seafood. Species given green ratings are considered relatively abundant and caught in environmentally-friendly ways; those with yellow ratings are considered good alternatives, though some concerns exist with the species’ status or catch methods; red or “avoid” means that for now, the species is suffering from overfishing, or that current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats.
“At the end of the day, it’s a team effort. Our customers, buyers, fishermen, and fishery managers can all make smart decisions that move us in the direction of greater sustainability. The new color-coded rating system is a transparent way to provide sustainability status information. This new program, along with our promise to phase out red-rated species, deepens our commitment to having fully sustainable seafood departments,” said Carrie Brownstein, Whole Foods Market seafood quality standards coordinator.