News

Wal-Mart unveils first social networking app

BY CSA STAFF

Bentonville, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Wednesday it has debuted a social networking application, calling it Shopycat.

The app uses Facebook data to recommend gifts to consumers, on the company’s Facebook page. It is one of the first products to roll out of @Walmartlabs, a unit of the company charged with developing social-networking and mobile technologies for the retailer.

"Shopycat is the first step in what we think is a very strategic area for the industry as a whole," said Venky Harinarayan, senior VP of WalMart Global eCommerce and co-founder of @WalmartLabs.

Shopycat uses data from Facebook pages to estimate a person’s top 10 friends, then recommends gifts based on the friends’ interests.

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FINANCE

Costco shines in November, Target disappoints

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York City — The discount and wholesale club sector was hit and miss in November, as Costco shone with a 9% rise in same-store sales for the month, but Target missed Wall Street expectations with a weak gain.

Despite a strong turnout on Black Friday, not all retailers received the expected sales benefits in what was a heavily promotional environment. “The consumer has become insanely focused on promotions," David Bassuk, head of the global retail practice at AlixPartners, told Reuters. "The consumer is willing to spend money, that’s the good news. But consumers need to be convinced."

For Target Corp., which recorded a 1.8% rise in November same-store sales, which missed Wall Street’s predicted 2.7% gain, average ticket was higher in November but overall traffic was down. The biggest merchandise disappointments, according to Target, were toys, music and movies. Strong sellers were food and beauty products. Total sales for the month rose 3% to $6.19 billion, and Target said it expects its December same-store sales to rise in the low- to mid-single digits.

Costco Wholesale Corp. turned in a far better performance in November, reporting a same-store sales rise of 9%, topping the expected 6.5% gain. The strong showing was due in part to higher gasoline prices, the operator said.

In other discount same-store news:

  • Ross Stores rose 5% in November, beating expectations.
  • TJX Cos. meet expectations, with a 4% same-store sales gain in the month.
  • Stein Mart recorded a 4.6% decline, widely missing Wall Street’s expected 0.5% gain.
  • Fred’s was up 1.5%.
  • Duckwall-Alco dipped 0.2%.
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News

Target comps light in November

BY CSA STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS — Target reported November same-store sales increased 1.8%, which was toward the low end of the company’s guidance that called for an increase in the low to mid single-digit range.

“November sales were near the low end of our expectations for the month as we compared against very strong performance last year,” said Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel. “As we kicked off the holiday season following Thanksgiving, sales were strongest on Black Friday as guests responded to our midnight opening and compelling prices. Our view of December remains the same — we expect a competitive and promotional environment as consumers continue to focus on value.”

This year’s 1.8% increase was on top of November 2010 increase of 5.5% and was led by a mid teens increase in the food category followed by a mid-single digit gain in the household essentials area, which includes the beauty category where performance was the strongest. Apparel and accessories comps were flat, while hardline and home furnishings and decors comps declined in the low single digits. On a regional basis, stores in California performed better than average while stores in the south and southeast were weaker than the average.

Steinhafel said the company expects its December sales performance will surpass November and he called for a comp increase in the low to mid single-digit range.

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