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Gift card purchases increase, consumer shopping data shows

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO The number of consumers purchasing gift cards has increased significantly over the past six months, shopping survey experts announced.

The National Research Network and consumer anthropologists The Hartman Group reported that over half of American consumers (57%) said they purchased at least one gift card within the past year, an increase of 5% from six months ago (when last measured). Surveyed during a time when the national unemployment rate is staggering, under 9% and the economic recession continues to linger, gift cards continue to sell. The top three most purchased gift cards are big box retailers, restaurants and department stores.

“Surprisingly even with the unfavorable economic conditions almost half (48%) of gift card recipients spend more than the amount on the gift card,” said Keith Maladra, VP Consumer Intelligence at NRN. “We found that gift cards are still encouraging personal spending. In fact, far less (16%) of gift card recipients spend less than the amount on the gift cards.”

The report finds that while more American consumers are purchasing gift cards, the average amount per gift card has decreased. Consumers who purchased a gift card within the past year spent $46 per gift card, on average, compared with $52 spent on average per gift card between September 2007 and August 2008. Gift Card Buying Trends compares shopper intentions pre-holiday shopping season with their actual purchase behavior post-holiday 2008.

“Gift cards are an important element of how gifting itself is changing,” said Michelle Barry, Ph.D., SVP at The Hartman Group. “For diverse marketers in retail, restaurant and financial services, the opportunity to make the gift card experience more meaningful—both in giving and receiving—is substantial.”

For more information on the NRN-Hartman Group Gift Card Buying Trends: Shopper Intentions and Purchase Behaviors 2009 report, visit:http://www.hartman-group.com/publications/reports/gift-card-buying-trends-shopper-intentionsand-purchase-behaviors-2009.

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Staedtler announces merger of U.S., Canada operations

BY Allison Cerra

CHATSWORTH, Calif. A new, consolidated organization of Staedtler will emerge by the end of this year, the company’s division presidents and CEOs announced.

By merging the United States and Canada operations, Staedtler Inc. will have a combined division called Staedtler North America.

The company manufactures writing instruments, including highlighters, mechanical drawing instruments and more.

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Costco halts home furnishing store experiment

BY Alaric DeArment

ISSAQUAH, Wash. Costco Wholesale Corp. will close its two Costco Home stores, the retailer announced Thursday.

The company will close the stores, in Kirkland, Wash., and Tempe, Ariz., on July 3.

“Costco Home has been a valuable experiment for us,” CEO Jim Sinegal stated. “We provided a competitive home furnishings alternative to our members in two locations and learned a great deal about home furnishings in the process. The current economic slowdown and resulting weakness in the home furnishings business inparticular have led us to conclude that the single-format Costco Home concept does not fit into our long-term expansion plans.”

Employees at the two stores will be offered opportunities to work at Costco warehouses, the company said.

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