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PriceGrabber notes shoppers’ BTS budgets, planned purchases

BY Allison Cerra

LOS ANGELES — Nearly two-thirds of consumers plan to spend up to $500 this back-to-school shopping season, PriceGrabber said Wednesday.

PriceGrabber released additional results from its back-to-school shopping study — which was released last month — noting that 63% of consumers surveyed (that plan to shop this back-to-school season) said they plan to spend up to $500 this back-to-school shopping season (compared to 48% in 2011), while 20% of respondents said plan to spend between $500 and $1,000, and 17% of shoppers said they don’t have a back-to-school shopping budget this year.

When asked what items they intend to buy this back-to-school season, respondents cited classic school supplies and back-to-school clothing 83% and 79%, respectively), as well as backpacks/tote bags (51%) and books (50%). Tech product purchases also are on the rise with 40% of shoppers planning to purchase a tech item this back-to-school season, such as a laptop, tablet, a smartphone or desktop computer.

When PriceGrabber survey respondents were asked to select the method in which they plan to purchase back-to-school items this year, 79% indicated they plan to shop online, compared with 69% in 2011.

"We suspect that given the large of amount of back-to-school shoppers who said they will shop online, many are planning to do so in order to comparison shop, set price alerts, find coupons, and take advantage of last-minute discounts, free shipping and price drops," PriceGrabber general manager Graham Jones said. "It seems that consumers are becoming more open to exploring creative options for saving money, so it’s no surprise to us that they are flocking to the Internet to utilize its ability to save shoppers time and money."

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Jean Coutu Group profits up nearly C$350 million on sale of Rite Aid shares

BY Alaric DeArment

LONGUEUIL, Quebec — Canadian retail pharmacy operator the Jean Coutu Group posted big increases in sales and profits that stemmed in large part from its sale earlier this year of much of its stake in U.S. retail pharmacy chain Rite Aid.

Jean Coutu Group reported first quarter 2013 sales of C$681.5 million, compared with C$660.6 million in first quarter 2012. The earnings boost included a C$348 million gain from its April 20 sale of 56 million shares of Rite Aid, including a C$82.8 million gain following the sale and an unrealized gain of C$265.2 million following a change in the company’s accounting method due to its loss of significant influence in the U.S. chain.

Other reasons for the boost in sales included overall market growth and an expansion of the PJC network of franchised stores. Profits for the quarter were C$397.4 million, compared with C$49.9 million in first quarter 2012, with the increase coming from the sale of the Rite Aid shares.

"We are very satisfied with the results of the first quarter of fiscal year 2013, which demonstrate the excellent performance of our operations," president and CEO Francois Coutu said. "Our network retail sales, and more importantly those of the pharmaceutical section, posted a significant increase despite the price reductions of generic drugs."

As of June 2, the company still owned 178.4 million shares of Rite Aid, equaling a 19.84% stake in the Camp Hill, Pa.-based chain with a value of C$226.2 million.

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BTS season will boost retail sales, foot traffic in August

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO — Retail sales and foot traffic will see a boost in late summer as the back-to-school season looms, according to the latest ShopperTrak report.

After a sharp decline in 2009, year-over-year back-to-school sales improved only 1.8% in 2010 before increasing 4.5% in 2011, ShopperTrak noted. Year-over-year retail foot traffic percentages also have declined during the past four back-to-school shopping seasons. When compared with the same period last year, however, 2012 sales will rise 4% in August, and retail foot traffic will increase 1.5%.

"This is an important shopping period, and retailers have struggled during back-to-school seasons the past few years," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said. "The tide will turn for retailers this year as we forecast a 4% increase in back-to-school sales. This increase will follow year-over-year U.S. retail sales growth in 28 of the last 29 months. August will present retailers with a tremendous opportunity to take all steps possible to maximize their shopper opportunity and increase conversion rates."

ShopperTrak also said that falling gas prices in recent weeks may encourage customers to make more car trips and visit more stores than they did last year, while lower prices at the pump also may translate into additional disposable income that parents can spend on their children.

"For the last couple of years, traffic data indicated a trend toward very targeted shopping. This year, back-to-school shoppers will visit more stores and browse for the best value," Martin added. "Stores that plan ahead and keep a close eye on their foot traffic and conversion rates will be pleased with their performance this season. Those who depend on last year’s shopper turnout and behavior as a guide for their staffing and inventory plans are, however, at risk of losing out on business this year."

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