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U.S. retail sales rise solid 0.4% in January

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — A report released Tuesday by the Commerce Department showed that consumer spending on retail goods rebounded in January after a flat holiday season.

Retail sales rose at a seasonally adjusted 0.4% last month, as consumers upped spending at department and general merchandise stores, as well as bought more electronics, home and garden supplies and sporting goods. Excluding autos, building materials and fuel sales, retail spending leaped 0.7%.

Retail sales have risen about 21% since recessionary lows. Latest results put sales almost 6% above their pre-recession highs. However, results in January still missed views, as a median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted a 0.8% rise for the month.

Nine of 13 major categories showed gains in January, led by a 2% increase at general merchandise stores, including department stores – the largest gain in five years.

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Publix names head of charitable division

BY CSA STAFF

LAKELAND, Fla. — Publix Super Markets has promoted Kelly Williams-Puccio to executive director of Publix Super Markets Charities.

In her new position, Williams-Puccio will be responsible for the strategic direction of the foundation, managing foundation giving policies and processes and maintaining the charitable legacy of company founder, George Jenkins.

Williams-Puccio began her Publix career in 1979 as a cashier in Boca Raton, Fla. In 1989, she became manager of personnel records for Publix’s Miami division, and in 1995 she was promoted to human resources investigations manager. She has been the director of associate relations since 2000.

“Giving back to our communities is an important part of our culture,” said Publix Vice Chairman Barney Barnett. “It’s a core value George instilled in us 82 years ago. I am pleased we have leaders like Kelly who are prepared to take on new roles and continue the legacy of giving.”

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Something to think about for Christmas 2012

BY CSA STAFF

Sales in the consumer electronics space would have been abysmal in 2011 were it not for tablet and e-readers, according to data from market researcher The NPD Group, which shows Target has an opportunity to gain share.

Target’s recent moves to deepen its relationship with Apple could be beneficial in that regard, as it was Apple that drove CE activity in 2011 and is likely to do so again in 2012. Currently, Target is not among the top five CE retailers, which NPD lists as Best Buy, Walmart, Apple and a tie between Staples and Amazon.

Overall CE sales fell a half percent in 2011 to $144 billion and nearly 60% of all sales were driven by the top five categories of PCs, TVs, tablets/e-readers, mobile phones, and video game hardware, according to NPD. Of those, a near doubling of sales to $15 billion in the tablet/e-reader segment kept the industry from experiencing a larger decline as other segments experienced declining sales. Beyond the top five categories, NPD noted that sales fell by 8%.

“U.S. hardware sales growth is becoming harder and harder to achieve at the broad industry level,” said Stephen Baker, VP industry analysis at NPD.

Sales through online, direct mail, and TV shopping channels jumped 7% and accounted for 24% of all sales, up from 22% in 2010. Sales through these non-retail channels captured 25% of industry revenue in the fourth quarter of 2011.

“While in-store sales fell about 2.5% in 2011, the growth in online volumes for retailers meant that retail name plates still accounted for well over four of every five dollars spent on CE hardware in the United States,” Baker said “Despite their sales strength, retail stores still face serious challenges in 2012 as volumes in the traditional CE categories, which once carried these stores, continue to slide. It shouldn’t be forgotten, however, that a large majority of mobile phones and tablets/e-readers (the two fastest growing CE categories) have mostly been driven through in-store experiences.”

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