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NRF urges Obama to call for initiatives to support retail

BY DSN STAFF

WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation announced that it has issued an open letter to President Obama, urging him to call for action on initiatives that support a strong retail sector when he delivers his State of the Union address later this month. The letter was signed by Macy’s chairman, president and CEO Terry Lundgren, who chairs the NRF board of directors, and NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

“America’s retailers want to continue growing our economy, but to do that we need Washington to embrace common-sense economic policy, remove barriers to job creation, and do so without asking for more tax dollars to foot the bill,” the letter said.

Shay said the letter, which was sent to the White House Tuesday night, is intended to emphasize the importance of the retail industry in job creation and the economy at a time when most of the jobs rhetoric from Washington focuses on manufacturing. The letter noted that the retail industry supports 42 million American jobs — 1-in-4 jobs and four times the number in manufacturing. Retail, he said, is the gateway between other industries and the American consumer.

“Retail is the barometer of our nation’s economy — when the economy is thriving, consumers spend, retailers prosper, and consumer dollars ripple out through each of the economic sectors behind the products and services sold in retail stores,” Shay said. “When Americans are out of work consumers stop spending, retailers stop ordering from manufacturers, and the economy grinds to a halt. To gauge the impact of any economic policy enacted in Washington, one need look no further than the cash register at any Main Street store in America.”

The letter asked Obama to include three key issues in his speech to Congress: sales tax fairness legislation that would ease the burden on Main Street retailers who create local jobs but are under increasing pressure from online competitors who do not have to collect sales tax on most sales; corporate tax reform that would eliminate deductions and credits enjoyed by a few industries in return for lowering tax rates for all businesses, helping retailers lower prices and increase jobs throughout the supply chain from the increased sales that would result; and free and open trade initiatives that would build upon recent free trade agreements and remove protectionist restrictions in future FTAs.

The letter also asked Obama to address neglected transportation infrastructure that slows down supply chains, credit card swipe fees that drive up prices for consumers, and mandates under the health care reform law that threaten to cost workers their jobs. It also asked that the Administration quicken the visa process to make it easier for foreign visitors to come to the United States to shop.

“Congress is well aware of these issues, but as is so often the case in Washington, it takes the power of the presidency to turn a good idea into law,” the letter said. “By calling for action on these items in your State of the Union address, you can play a major role in helping American businesses create the jobs American workers so desperately need.”

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Spartan Stores expanding Fuel Rewards program

BY Alaric DeArment

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Supermarket operator Spartan Stores and gas station operator Speedway are expanding a fuel-discount program to all of Michigan, the companies said Wednesday.

The two said the expansion of the Fuel Rewards program to additional Spartan stores would allow customers to leverage their food and fuel budgets. Spartan operates 97 stores in Michigan under the D&W Fresh Markets, Family Fare Supermarkets, Glen’s Markets and VG’s Food and Pharmacy banners and also distributes private and national brand products to more than 375 independent grocers in the Midwest.

Under the program, customers at the stores use their Yes Rewards card and earn fuel rewards based on their grocery purchases, such as a 5-cent-per-gallon discount on fuel for $50 in purchases. Supermarkets that have a Quick Stop Fuel Center nearby will issue Fuel Rewards for the Quick Stop center, while those without will issue a Speedway Fuel Reward. Spartan said the partnership would also allow it to extend the program to the independent grocers it supplies.

"Spartan Stores consumers are delighted with our Fuel Rewards partnership with Speedway," Spartan EVP merchandising and marketing Alan Hartline said. "Since we launched the pilot program, consumers have saved nearly $250,000 on over 1,7 million gallons of fuel sold at Speedway locations across the state."

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IBM: Mobile shopping doubles over holiday

BY Katherine Field Boccaccio

ARMONK, N.Y. — On Tuesday, IBM released its final benchmark announcement for the 2011 holiday season, detailing a continued strong performance for mobile, as well as an overall increase in online spending for December 2011.

According to the report, the U.S. online retail sector delivered 7.5% growth in December 2011, compared with the same period last year. This followed a strong November where both Black Friday 2011 and Cyber Monday 2011 delivered double-digit growth over 2010.

Other key findings of the IBM report included:

  • Mobile traffic experienced significant growth, as 14.6% of all online sessions on a retailer’s site were initiated from a mobile device, more than double the rate of 5.6% over this same period in 2010;

  • Sales from mobile devices doubled, reaching 11% versus 5.5% in December 2010;

  • Apple’s iPhone and iPad ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for mobile device retail traffic (5.2% and 4.3% respectively). Android was third at 4.1%; and

  • Shoppers using the iPad also continued to drive more retail purchases than any other device with conversion rates reaching 6.3% compared witho 3.1% for all mobile devices.

"This past December consumers remained committed to finding the best online deals whether through their PC or mobile device,” said John Squire, chief strategy officer for IBM Smarter Commerce.

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