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Low-priced gifts are all aglow this holiday season

BY Barbara White-Sax

Gifts with a lower price point may be the winners again this holiday season. “Based on last year’s performance, it won’t be a surprise if consumers spend less this holiday season,” said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.

The forecast isn’t all gloomy; there’s opportunity for drug retailers offering lower-priced gift items. Electronic accessories, small home decor products and, of course, toys are likely to be key categories.

For the past few years, electronics have been at the top of consumer holiday wish lists. That means accessories also are hot products. This year, Mizco is emphasizing iPod and MP3 accessories, stereo headphones and Bluetooth headsets. “We have some strong promotions for the holiday season,” said Sam Mizrahi, EVP of Mizco. “Drug retailers do well with accessory kits—they are a great value and make great gifts.” Mizco offers an assorted power wing with top-selling cellular and MP3 accessories on prepackaged shippers, as well as stand-alone racks that can be customized with any product assortment.

Candles are an affordable gift that “everyone is pleased to get around the holidays,” said Barbara Miller, a spokeswoman for the National Candle Association. About 35% of U.S. candle sales occur in the fourth quarter, according to the association. “Holiday candle sales have typically been strong even when the economy is tight,” Miller said. Spa candles have become increasingly popular as a gift item.

%of consumers who feel it’s appropriate to give candles as a gift by occasion

OCCASION %OF CONSUMERS
Holidays 76%
Housewarmings 74
Hostess gifts 66
Thank yous 61
Adult birthdays 58
Bridal showers or weddings 52
Source: National Candle Association

“We’ve found that products under $15 work best in the drug channel,” said Chris Barnes, president of Candle Warmers Etc. Barnes expected a strong year for holiday candle sales, particularly the company’s Illumination Fragrance Warmers, which are designed to warm scented oils and wax, and create the glow and ambiance of a candle while releasing fragrance.

“Overall interest in this type of wax candle warmer has definitely moved beyond a market trend,” he said. The company has introduced three new seasonal warmers: Jack O’Lantern, Snowman and Let it Snow. Suggested retail price for each is $13.99.

Holiday ornaments and decor are perennial favorites at the drug channel. American Greetings has added fresh offerings to its Heirloom Ornament Collection. In addition to traditional pieces and such annual licensing favorites as Godzilla, I Love Lucy and Elvis, AG will introduce a new Beatles Yellow Submarine ornament, which will retail for $22.50, and an original selection commemorating “Wicked: The Musical,” which plays a selection from “Defying Gravity” and retails for $27.50.

Some other promising holiday products include:

Joseph Enterprises Chia Pets: The gift item, which has been popular for more than two decades, will be supported by heavy TV promotion during the holiday season. The company, with models from SpongeBob SquarePants to Obama, is looking at producing miniature Chia Pet packs for upcoming seasons;

Novelty pillows from Peek-a-Boo Toys: Available in four versions—Angel, Cutie, Princess and Love—and retailing for $14.99, the pillows have been popular gift items. The company also is featuring plush Ninja Warriors and Superhero Pigs, both lines retailing for $9.99; and

Fushigi Magic Gravity Ball: This skill toy from Idea-Village products has been popular with kids.

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Giant Eagle awarded for green efforts

BY Allison Cerra

PITTSBURGH Giant Eagle has received four awards from the Environmental Protection Agency for its eco-friendly practices and sustainability efforts, the supermarket retailer said.

Giant Eagle was the recipient of the EPA Montreal Protocol award, the GreenChill environmental award, the GreenChill building certification and the EPA Smartway transport partnership perfect performance score.

“Our multiple partnerships with the EPA are a significant piece of our overall sustainability strategy, which also includes our energy management efforts and recycling initiatives,” said Shelly Sponholz, Giant Eagle SVP real estate and development. “We truly believe that our environmental commitment is a vital part to the success of both our communities and our business, as so many of the sustainable projects we undertake produce tangible benefits to each.”

Giant Eagle operates stores throughout western Pennsylvania, Ohio, north central West Virginia and Maryland.

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Retailers urge Congress to reject Chinese currency legislation

BY Alaric DeArment

ARLINGTON, Va. As members of Congress move to try and force China to revalue its currency, the renminbi yuan, retailers are weighing in on the issue.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents more than 200 retailers, manufacturers and suppliers, asked lawmakers Friday to reject legislation under consideration Friday morning by the House Ways and Means Committee that would pressure China on its currency by imposing tariffs on products imported from there.

 

Alarge share of consumer products sold in the United States are made in China, and in many cases are no longer made in the United States. Thus, placing tariffs on goods imported from China could force retailers to pass the costs onto consumers.

 

 

“Provoking tension with our trading partners doesn’t come without costs, and we should choose our battles carefully, especially given the great amount of uncertainty in markets at this time,” RILA VP international trade Stephanie Lester said. “It makes little sense to enact harmful policies that will spark a bilateral conflict over currency with one of our largest trading partners and fastest-growing markets for American exports, given almost stagnant economic growth.”

 

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