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ComScore reports 12% increase in holiday retail e-commerce spending

BY Michael Johnsen

RESTON, Va. — ComScore on Wednesday tabulated $28.4 billion in holiday season retail e-commerce spending for the first 49 days of the November/December 2010 holiday season. That marks a 12% increase versus the year-ago period.

The most recent week (ended Dec. 19) reached $5.5 billion in spending, an increase of 14% versus the corresponding week last year. The final shopping weekend before Christmas reached $900 million in retail e-commerce spending, representing a strong 17% growth rate versus last year.

"Spending growth has remained strong right through the final shopping weekend of the holiday season," stated ComScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "The growth rate of 17% witnessed during the final weekend capped off the heaviest online spending week of all time at $5.5 billion,” he noted. “Although there are still nearly two weeks remaining before the end of the year, holiday spending is inching very close to the total for the entire 2009 holiday season, a sign of just how much the online retail landscape has improved in the past year."

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Pa. supermarkets receive lump of coal for the holidays as wine kiosks go off-line

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board just delivered a rather large lump of coal to those 30-some-odd supermarkets carrying these wine kiosks, especially as retail wine sales for 2010 appear to be on a significant upswing since Thanksgiving.

(THE NEWS: Pa. supermarket wine kiosks taken off-line. For the full story, click here)

The kiosks always had been considered a token gesture to color the PLCB as a more “consumer-friendly” monopoly. But times they are a-changin’.

Because this may be the last holiday season the PLCB can monopolize wine sales in the Keystone State, where the only place a Pennsylvanian can purchase a bottle of holiday wine, if not at one of those kiosks, is at a state-run wine and liquor store.

The state is considering privatizing its state-run liquor monopoly in an attempt to address its own fiscal woes, and governor-elect Tom Corbett is rumored to be heavily in favor of such a change. According to published reports, Pennsylvania could bring in nearly $2 billion by privatizing wine and liquor sales.

And that kind of privatization couldn’t be coming at a better time, at least for those companies that would consider owning and operating a Pennsylvania wine and liquor shop. Off-premises sales of domestic table wine through Nov. 28 rose 6% above the same four-week period last year, and continued on a trajectory to finish 2010 higher than any year since 2006, reported Wines and Vines, a business publication that tracks the wine industry. Citing SymphonyIRI Group data, sales in the four weeks totaled $395 million across chain food and drug stores, Wines and Vines reported.

On an entirely separate note, that pickup in wine sales, and a more significant jump in sales of $20-plus bottles, could be a telltale sign that the economy is on the mend.

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Component in common dairy foods may cut diabetes risk

BY Michael Johnsen

BOSTON — Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health and collaborators from other institutions have identified a natural substance in dairy fat that substantially may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. 

Reporting in the Dec. 21 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, investigators led by Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH, explained that the compound trans-palmitoleic acid is a fatty acid found in milk, cheese, yogurt and butter that is not produced by the body.

The HSPH researchers examined 3,736 participants in the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute-funded "Cardiovascular Health Study," who have been followed for 20 years in an observational study to evaluate risk factors for cardiovascular diseases in older adults. Such metabolic risk factors as blood-glucose and insulin levels, and levels of circulating blood fatty acids, including trans-palmitoleic acid, were measured using stored blood samples in 1992. Participants were followed for development of Type 2 diabetes.

At baseline, higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid were associated with healthier levels of blood cholesterol, inflammatory markers, insulin levels and insulin sensitivity after adjustment for other risk factors. During follow-up, individuals with higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid had a much lower risk of developing diabetes, with about a 60% lower risk among participants in the highest quintile of trans-palmitoleic acid levels, compared with individuals in the lowest quintile.

"This type of observational finding requires confirmation in additional observational studies and controlled trials, but the magnitude of this association is striking," Mozaffarian stated. "This represents an almost three-fold difference in risk of developing diabetes among individuals with the highest blood levels of this fatty acid."

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