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Deloitte: Consumers in good spirits about holiday shopping

BY Gail Hoffer

NEW YORK — While consumers remain concerned about the economy, it is not enough to damper their holiday shopping spirit. According to a recent Deloitte survey, while two-thirds (67%) of consumers expect the economy to stay the same or weaken next year, nearly 3-out-of-5 people (59%) will put aside economic worries and spend the same or more this holiday season. This is a slight decline from 2010 but an eight percentage point increase from 2009.

Shoppers planning to spend less this year (42%) pointed to higher costs impacting their household budgets. Six-out-of-10 cited higher food prices (63%) and higher gas prices (60%) as reasons for spending less this year. Roughly half (49%) pointed to higher energy costs.

“Lackluster employment growth, debt crises and stock market fluctuations have battered consumer confidence while inflation left many with lighter wallets this fall,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail & distribution leader for Deloitte LLP. “Consumers will be conservative this holiday season, but remain resilient and maintain a more positive interest in holiday shopping than we witnessed during the recession.”

The survey found that holiday shoppers plan to buy an average of 14.7 holiday gifts this year, down from 16.8 last year and continuing a four-year decline in the number of gifts they plan to purchase.

While all income groups plan to cut back on gift spending, as can be expected, higher-income households earning $100,000 or more annually said they expect to trim a mere 2% off gift spending to shell out an average of $812 on gifts this holiday season, compared with a 26% drop to $291 on gifts among those earning less than $100,000.

Gift cards, which had a long reign as the gift of choice, has been ousted from its top spot by apparel. The number of consumers planning to purchase gift cards fell 11 percentage points to 45%, while clothing went up to 48%. The number who plan to hand out cash slid seven percentage points to just one-quarter (25%) of respondents, Deloitte found.

The Internet continues to be a powerful tool for comparison shopping, with 68% of consumers planning to change the way they shop to save money, and more than 51% saying they will go online to find better prices. This represents a 10 percentage point jump from last year, while 46% plan to buy more items that qualify for free shipping.

Among shopping destinations, the Internet jumped 13 percentage points to join discount stores at the top of the list with nearly half (48%) of consumers planning to shop these two destinations for holiday gifts. While online interest climbed, discounters slid 10 percentage points from the 2010 survey.

Smartphones also will be an important shopper tool this holiday season, Deloitte found that more than 27% of smartphone owners plan to use their devices for holiday shopping to search for store locations (67%), compare prices (59%) and check product availability (46%). Additionally, 44% said they plan to use social media to seek discounts, read reviews and check family and friends’ gift lists.

Retailers counting on early sales are out of luck as more than half of consumers (53%) plan to begin shopping before Thanksgiving, but nearly three quarters (73%) intend to hold out until after this holiday to make the majority of their purchases.

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CVS/pharmacy, Direct Relief USA hold free flu clinic in Dallas for uninsured

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS/pharmacy and Direct Relief USA teamed up to provide free flu vaccinations at a flu shot clinic held Thursday in Dallas at Healing Hands Ministries Medical & Dental Clinic.

The flu shot clinic in Dallas resulted from the partnership between CVS Caremark and Direct Relief USA that is offering up to $6 million this year in free flu shots to community clinic and health center patients who lack health insurance. Through the program, more than 480 participating clinics and health centers across the country, including Healing Hands Ministries Medical & Dental Clinic, are identifying uninsured individuals from their existing patient populations and providing them with a free flu shot voucher, which is redeemable at any CVS/pharmacy or MinuteClinic location.

"We are committed to giving back to the communities where we do business. That is why we’ve partnered with Direct Relief USA to help ensure that cost is not a barrier to patients receiving the important preventive health care provided by a flu vaccination," stated Laura Underwood, area VP of CVS/pharmacy in Texas. "As we enter the peak of flu season, we are pleased to extend our free flu shot program through the clinic held today at Healing Hands Ministries in Dallas."

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CVS Caremark to host live Facebook chats for American Diabetes Month

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — As part of its broad support for patients with diabetes, and in recognition of American Diabetes Month, CVS Caremark announced on Thursday that it will be hosting live Facebook chats to answer patients’ questions about diabetes and chronic condition management.

Among other topics, the discussions will address how diabetes patients and their families can best manage their disease. CVS pharmacists and MinuteClinic nurse practitioners will offer insights to diabetes patients on filling their prescriptions on time, continuing to take their medications as prescribed and monitoring their conditions regularly.

MinuteClinic will host a live online event with a MinuteClinic nurse practitioner on Nov. 8, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern time that can be accessed through the MinuteClinic Facebook page. CVS/pharmacy will host a live online event with a CVS pharmacist on Nov. 15, from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Eastern time that can be accessed by logging on to the CVS/pharmacy Facebook page.

"As a pharmacy innovator, we have created a number of programs to help the nearly 26 million Americans who have diabetes manage their condition and find new and effective ways to put them on a path to better health," stated Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer of CVS Caremark.

Many patients are drawn to social media to share information and to find support and strategies for living with chronic disease, but recent CVS Caremark research showed great variability in the standards used to ensure sites effectively provide information and answers to important health-related questions. "We are committed to providing high-quality, accurate information through this medium," Brennan added.

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