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Deloitte survey: Back to basics for back-to-school

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK Fewer consumers expect to reduce their spending on back-to-school items compared with last year, although economic concerns will continue to weigh on their shopping plans, according to a survey by Deloitte.

Among those surveyed, 64% said they plan to spend less on back-to-school items, compared with 71% in 2008. Forty-three percent said they will cut back their spending by more than $100, down from nearly 5-out-of-10 (48%) last year.

“Consumers may be casting a glimmer of hope for retailers, but the survey results indicate that value will top their shopping lists this year,” said Stacy Janiak, vice chairman and U.S. Retail leader, Deloitte LLP. “Although retailers may not see as many wallets snapping shut as they did in late 2008, consumers still plan to stretch their dollars, telling us that that their shopping remains constrained. Retailers should focus on delivering the best incentives and in-store experiences to get the most out of the back-to-school season this year.”

With 90% of respondents indicating they will do their back-to-school shopping at discount/value department stores, consumers are continuing to watch their wallets closely. Among other places they will shop, 40% said dollar stores, 29% said office supply stores and 28% said off-price stores.

In addition, almost one-third (32%) said they would buy more private label brands, and more than one-quarter (28%) will comparison shop online before buying. Additionally, consumers have a continued interest in the green category.

“In today’s tough environment, retailers’ principal marketing strategies should include coupons, sales and loyalty programs,” said Janiak. “And with more than three-quarters of shoppers expecting to do the bulk of their shopping in August, retailers can implement promotions now that may encourage customers to spend a greater share of the back-to-school budget in one place. Campaigns that are both strategic and creative, such as mobile alerts or coupons, can target a specific customer segment, better engage shoppers and build loyalty.”

For more information about Deloitte’s retail sector, please visit www.deloitte.com/us/retail.

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Report: Card-check provision removed from Employee Free Choice Act

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK The New York Times on Friday reported that the “card-check provision” — which would have required employers to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted a union as opposed to a secret-ballot election — has been removed from the Employee Free Choice Act in an effort to secure enough Democratic votes to avoid a filibuster.

It was a polarizing issue — the card-check provision was advocated by union organizations because it would have made it easier to unionize a workforce. In its place, several Senate and labor officials told the New York Times, the revised bill would require shorter unionization campaigns and faster elections — with elections to be held within two work-weeks after 30% of a workforce signed cards favoring unionization.

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Gilead enters partnership with Tibotec to develop HIV drug

BY Allison Cerra

FOSTER CITY, Calif. Gilead Sciences said it entered a partnership with Tibotec Pharmaceuticals to develop a single daily antiretroviral HIV pill.

The proposed drug would combine Gilead’s Truvada with a drug Tibotec is developing called TMC278, or rilpivirine. Terms were not disclosed, but Gilead said it would take the lead in manufacturing and testing the combined drug, working to get it approved by regulators, and selling it.

Gilead said the product would be the second complete antiretroviral treatment for HIV available in one pill. The first is Gilead’s Atripla, which combines three HIV drugs. The company said the combined pills make treatment simpler for patients.

Tibotec, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, would be responsible for developing rilpivirine as a standalone drug.

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