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Resource: Featured Articles
Holiday Shoppers Ready for Round Two
Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas may be over but holiday shopping is far from over. Now, it's time for phase two of the retail cycle to get into gear.

Shoppers are back for more as retailers are anticipating the onset of gift card redemption. Plus, by now most people have already ripped open and decided that they'd rather not hang on to those less than desirable gifts (like that sweater from Uncle Mike) and instead return or exchange them for something a little more worth while.

That meant that Monday was another day for shops and retailers to brace themselves for consumers to pour in. The National Retail Federation estimated a record $46.28 billion in holiday merchandise to be brought back this year.

In some parts of the country, stores like Kohl's encountered a steady stream of people coming through the doors on Monday with unwanted Christmas gifts. The store opened at 5 a.m. with some customers already lined up at 4:30 but it wasn't until about 10 that things started to pick up.

Aside customers wanted to trade in their undesired goods, Monday's mini shopping boom also brought in another breed of shoppers: the devoted bargain hunters. People wanting to prepare for next year's holidays are lining up to get in on the After-Christmas sales with bargains like 50 percent off ornaments and other various holiday-themed items. Many stores dedicate a clearance section for customers to find leftover holiday items to grab for following years in advance.

Even though most Christmas shopping happens between Black Friday's sales frenzy and the last minute rush on Christmas Eve, people who take the easy route with gift cards are nonetheless in high numbers. Businesses like Target and Best Buy saw heavy traffic on Monday of people ready to cash in on their golden tickets.

In another projection by the National Retail Federation, holiday sales are expected to jump another 3.8 percent reaching a record of $469 billion this year. While some analysts are calling these gains modest, "modest" isn't all that bad considering the country's economic state.

Traffic will be expected to slow down within the following weeks giving businesses a breather and polish up its stores for the new year. Most stores would welcome the Christmas-level sales all year but the downtime allows them to keep things in tiptop shape after all the holiday hustle and bustle. And both consumers and workers can agree that the downtime is much needed.

Thousands of Retail Jobs For the Holidays
Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Shoppers swarm mall for holiday sales
It's that time of year again. Malls become flooded with deal-hungry shoppers, gifts get put at the top of TO-DO lists, and the kitchen becomes the most popular room in the house.

But with all the holiday festivities going on, this calls for the need of extra helping hands. In November, the Department of Labor data revailed that the retail industry added nearly 50,000 jobs -- the second highest increase in four years.

Agressive Black Friday promotions were partly the reason that enticed consumers to spend ahead of schedule.

The data shows that the number of added jobs raised the total number of U.S. retail jobs to 14.7 million. As one of the nation's largest private employers, the retail industry is vulnerable to economic changes and workforce-related regulations.

According to the National Retail Federation, traditional retail stores saw a 7 percent increase in Black Friday sales hitting a record high of $11.4 billion.

IBM, in the meantime, reported that the average amount of money spent by each consumer on Cyber Monday increased by a remarkable 33 percent.

Retails aren't the only ones hiring workers this season. Challenger tracking of hiring announcements found that shipping giants FedEx and UPS planned to add a combined number of 75,000 employees to help them with the holiday deliveries.

This year, 'tis the season for those in need of work to be very jolly. Holiday sales have kicked off with a booming start and crunch time for those procrastinating gift givers is creeping up.

If there's anything Americans can count on to not falter, it's their consumerism. With the rapid increase in people spending and retail businesses hiring, it puts a lapse in the notion that the country is still trying to pull itself out of a recession, albeit a momentary lapse.

Luxury Retailers Come Out on Winning End
Thursday, December 01, 2011

Neiman Marcus in San Francisco, CA
A number of major retailers have been subjected to the harsh impacts of the U.S.'s slumping economy. In recent years, it's been hard to for many to keep customers coming back with reasonable pricing when times are tough and costs are getting tight.

But the same can't be said for a number of luxury retailers like Tiffany and Co., Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. 

They, in fact, reported increased sales while the rest of the nation continues to struggle to stay afloat in the economic doldrums. As gas prices hit and in some places top $4 the upper-end consumer is leading the way for these luxury businesses to come out on top.

This happening was brought on by some consumers feeling that they've held out on making personal purchases for so long that now is the time to come out of their shopping withdrawals.

Take a look at the numbers. In its first-quarter, jewelry retailer Tiffany, accumulated profits of a 26 percent increase in sales exceeding their expectations. Nordstrom had a gain of 7.4 percent, a significant win topping their estimates of 5.9 percent.

This pattern is typical of a recession in that luxury is always last to be affected and first to come to come out on top. Other expenses like gas, food, and clothing prices are usually a concern for consumers living paycheck-to-paycheck, and not so much for those who already get by comfortably.

Between 2005 and 2010, several of the biggest names in retail consistently fell short of reaching their performance targets. Wall Street kept a close eye at which retailers were suffering the most in sales during the five-year span and found common elements for all of them.

The first was that some of the retailors were competing with even bigger ones. Take for example Foot Locker, whose high-end athletic gear can also be found at big box retailers and department stores. 

Another detrimental factor is that some were losing sales where other companies of similar sizes specialized in selling particular products. Places like Office Max and Staples who serve as a supplier in lines of office merchandise.

One more reason is due to poor management for some of these companies. After failing to get a promotion at GE, Robert Nardelli was later appointed by Home Depot to run its company.

From 2000 to 2007, he managed to alienate employees and shareholders while producing less than impressive results and extravagant pay packages. From there he became CEO of Chrysler with shared a similar dismal fate.

Another company that was afflicted by poor management was JC Penny whose CEO Mike Ullman was ultimately replaced by Ron Johnson, the former head of Apple's retail store operation.

Before that point the industry fared considerably well despite the wobbly economy, and many have been able to still increase revenue. Places like Wal-Mart, Costco, and Target have seen sales rise by 21 percent, 28, percent, and 13 percent.

These figures are just a relative illustration of their cumulated sales surpassing hundreds of billions of dollars a year but they make for a decent representation of the industry as a whole.

Retail business and employment fluxuates with the economy and the customers that they target. Even though luxury retailers seem to be immune to economic troubles, major companies always have potential of coming back up as they serve larger pools of consumers.