Entries in Consumers (45)


Cyber Monday Deals Lure More Shoppers on Mobile Devices

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Early estimates of Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, showed sales may reach $2 billion, and a growing portion of that may come from the pockets of a record number of mobile shoppers.

As of 2 p.m. EST, payment system PayPal had a 196-percent increase in mobile payment volume on Cyber Monday 2012 than Cyber Monday 2011. On Black Friday, the increase in the number of people shopping on their mobile devices was stark for PayPal as well as auction site eBay, which owns PayPal. On Friday, there was a 153-percent increase in mobile volume transactions compared to Black Friday last year. PayPal's volume increased almost three-fold, 193 percent, compared to last year's Black Friday.

The annual event is increasingly becoming Cyber Week instead of a one-day event as retailers open their arms for Americans who prefer to avoid crowds and compare prices online., Target, Walmart were all promoting Cyber Week specials in addition to deals exclusive to Cyber Monday.

Shoppers are expected to spend more than $1.5 billion Monday, up 20 percent from last year, according to research firm comScore. Another prediction from Adobe Digital Index forecasts spending will reach $2 billion, as many shoppers were waiting for Monday's online deals to make their purchases.

It has already been a big holiday weekend with a record $59.1 billion spent at U.S. stores and websites, according to the National Retail Federation.

Online sales on Thanksgiving Day, traditionally not a popular day for online shopping, rose 32 percent from last year to $633 million, according to comScore. And online sales on Black Friday were up 26 percent from the same day last year, to $1.042 billion. It was the first time online sales on Black Friday surpassed $1 billion.

The National Retail Federation says 247 million shoppers hit stores and websites to cash in on savings during the holiday weekend, up nine percent from last year. Nearly two-thirds of those shoppers went to stores or hit the Web on Black Friday.

Black Friday is now history along with Small Business Saturday. Now, it's Cyber Monday's turn.

On Twitter, retailers were tweeting in full force. Verizon Wireless purchased Twitter's promoted post, #CyberMonday, while Radio Shack marketed a different deal each hour of the day with the hashtag, #24dealsin24. At noon EST, Radio Shack was offering a TomTom GPS navigator for $99.99 after a discount of 38 percent.

From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST, casual clothing and home retailer Land's End is listing door busters with the hashtag, #LE12HRS.

At midnight, was offering as much as 60 percent off a Panasonic VIERA 55-inch TV that's usually priced higher than $1,000. Sears is offering $430 off a Maytag washer and dryer, each on sale for $399. And Kmart is offering 75 percent off diamond earrings.

"Cyber Monday is really all about doing your homework, and it really means looking for the really good deals," retail analyst Marshal Cohen said. "If it's a really good deal, grab it."

But Cyber Monday might be losing its luster. The busiest day for Internet shopping has been overshadowed this year by online sales that started as early as Thanksgiving Day.

"Look for Cyber Monday to be important, but not necessarily getting that same growth rate that they've had in years past," Cohen said.

The rise in smartphones and tablets has changed consumers' shopping habits since Cyber Monday's inception seven years ago. Cyber Monday was first widely publicized by in 2005 to persuade shoppers to buy online, as people were still warming to e-commerce.

"There were so many deals being offered online, starting from Wednesday and all the way through the weekend and now some of the money has already been spent," Cohen said.

Cyber Monday is also an easier alternative for people who don't like long lines and chaos that comes with the Black Friday weekend.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


September Retail Sales Post 5.4-Percent Rise

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Adding to the mix of improving economic news is the retail sales report from the Commerce Department Monday.

Sales in September were better than expected -- up 1.1 percent from the previous month and 5.4 percent above September 2011. This is the third straight month of improving retail sales.

Consumer spending drives about two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

According to economist Diane Swonk, improving home prices are playing a part in Monday’s report, which she says has been “one of the largest positive moves for consumers over last six months.”

The report shows big increases in electronics and appliances; Apple’s iPhone 5 helped boost this sector.

Retail sales outside of autos, gasoline and building materials -- known as core retail sales -- rose 0.9 percent last month.

As with all the positive economic news these days, there are some caveats.  Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, points out that “consumers are likely dipping into savings to pay for the increased spending -- we need more jobs to sustain this spending.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Consumers Appear More Cautious this Holiday Shopping Season

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Consumer confidence has gone up in recent weeks, but shoppers appear to be in no mood to splurge.  A new survey finds most Americans do not plan to spend more on holiday gifts than they did last year.

Retailers are cautiously optimistic about the coming holiday shopping season.

"Most shoppers feel that the worst is over," says Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation.  "They made it through the recession.  Many of them spent several years paying down debt or putting money into savings."

But there are plenty of headwinds this fall that could hold back consumer spending.

"Everything from political attack ads to news about the fiscal cliff to gas prices that still can’t seem to stabilize are giving some consumers reason for caution," explains Davis.

That may make layaway plans more popular this year than at any time in the recent past.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Shrinking Products: Paying the Same for Less

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Big brands are selling smaller products for the same price and one of the many consumers noticing the differences and alerting others is not even old enough to drive.

“I usually feel cheated because I’m paying the same price for less of an item,” Jared Goodman, 13, told ABC News.  “I usually look for labels that say ‘new and improved.’  Because that probably means the product’s been downsized.”

Goodman is part of a growing army of shoppers who are fed up with what’s called “downsizing.”  Consumers from all over the country send their tips to Edgar Dworksy, the founder of, who posts the findings online.

“[Downsizing is] very common,” Dworksy said.  “It’s been going on for years, but there seems to be a surge right now.”

On ABC News’ trip to the supermarket, 14 products were found that had recently gotten smaller.  Here were some of the changes:

  • Kashi cereal had shrunk, with a slightly taller box actually containing less cereal.
  • Boxes of Scott Tissues contained 12 less tissues.
  • There were 48 fewer chocolate chips in Ghirardelli chocolate chips.
  • Planters Deluxe Mixed Nuts contained 52 fewer nuts than it had previously.
  • A can of Maxwell House Coffee used to have enough coffee for 270 cups, now it will make only 240. The one thing that didn’t change was the price, it still costs $9.59.
  • Pillsbury Cake mixes were reduced by three ounces. When made as instructed on the package, the old mix made 24 cupcakes; the new one, which costs the same, barely makes 21.
  • Brawny paper towels new roll had four and a half feet fewer paper towels than one of its older rolls.  And again, the price remained the same.

ABC News confronted the manufacturers about the disparity and they said they downsize products because customers prefer that to higher prices.

“We regularly improve Brawny to compete against other well-known towel brands, and last year made Brawny stronger when wet to better meet consumer needs,” Georgia-Pacific, the maker of Brawny, wrote to ABC News.  “To cover the costs of this improvement, we slightly reduced the sheet count and size, and our consumers’ response to these changes have been positive."

“We aim to provide the right value to our consumers -- and may introduce new package sizes or adjust package sizes of our base products (upward or downward) based on delivering the right value,” Lynne Galia from Kraft Foods Corporate Affairs wrote to ABC News.  Kraft makes Maxwell House coffee as well as Planters Deluxe Mixed Nuts.

In the end, the power is with the purchaser: consumers can always switch brands, but it’s important to remember that when one brand shrinks, its competitors often do the same.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Credit Card Settlement May Not Help Consumers

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There's one thing plenty of people agree on about the new $7.25 billion settlement reached between big banks and retailers on credit card swipe fees: They don't like it.

"People on both sides of the issue are disappointed," says Anisha Sekar, VP of credit and debit products for NerdWallet, a website that helps consumers decide which credit card program is best for them.

Under the proposed deal -- which, if approved by a judge, would be the largest antitrust settlement in U.S. history -- merchants would be free to tell customers at checkout how much extra they're paying to use a given credit card than if they'd paid by cash.  Merchants also would have the option of imposing a surcharge on credit card purchases, which would help them recoup some of the hefty fees they pay to banks for credit card transactions.

The Wall Street Journal reports that for many retailers, those fees represent the third-biggest cost of doing business, right after rent and payroll.  A merchant's average fee, says the Journal, is 1.5 percent to 3 percent of each credit card transaction.

Defenders of the settlement reached last week say that under it, merchants' costs would be reduced; and further, that consumers would get more information to help them make better decisions about which card to use (or whether to use a card at all, and instead to pay cash).

Jeffrey Shinder, an attorney who represents some 145,000 convenience stores through the National Association of Convenience Stores (NAC), questions how much of a benefit consumers might get.

"If this goes through intact," he says, "you should ask yourself: Are merchants really going to surcharge?  I have my doubts."

Singling out credit card customers for a special charge would be "a PR nightmare in a tight economy," says Shinder.  Moreover, he says, state law in New York, California, Texas and seven other states prohibits such surcharges.  These states together, he says, account for 42 percent of transaction volume.  So, the settlement's terms "won't affect half the country."

One more twist: Merchants who accept American Express are precluded under their agreement with the card provider from imposing surcharges on Amex transactions.  And under the settlement's terms, merchants cannot favor one card over another.  Thus, any merchant who accepts Amex (and can't impose an Amex surcharge) can't impose a surcharge on for any other card, either.

"All of which is to say," says Shinder, "that I don't think there's going to be much impact.  It's why this is not a landmark settlement.  It's not going to benefit consumer welfare."

It could, however, be a huge pain in the neck for merchants.  Doug Kantor, counsel for NAC, foresees widespread confusion and frustration: "At the end of the day, merchants will throw up their hands and say, 'I can't do it,'" he predicts.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


High Gas Prices Driving Buyers Toward More Fuel Efficient Cars

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(YONKERS, N.Y.) -- High gas prices are dictating how car buyers go about purchasing their next vehicle.

A new survey from Consumer Reports found that 37 percent of consumers would make fuel economy their top priority when shopping for their next automobile.  That's followed by quality (17 percent), safety (16 percent), value (14 percent) and performance (6 percent).

Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports' deputy auto editor, said it's clear drivers are feeling the pain at the pump.

"Gas prices have been high for quite some time now.  And there is no real sign that they're going to go down to the point that they were just a few years ago.  So, looking to balance their budgets and keep an eye on costs, consumers are really looking at the operating costs of owning a vehicle," he said.

In fact, 90 percent of respondents cited gasoline costs as the number one reason for wanting a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

The pain at the pump is also leading car buyers to consider a change in how their vehicles are powered.  Nearly three-quarters -- 73 percent -- of those surveyed said they might be open to alternatively fueled vehicles, like hybrids and electric cars.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Prom Spending Jumps 33 Percent Nationwide

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many segments of the U.S. economy continue to struggle in the wake of the recent recession, but the prom industry is booming, according to a new national survey by Visa Inc.

The survey finds American families with teenagers will spend an average of $1,078 each on a prom in 2012, a 33.6-percent increase over the $807 spent last year.

Families in the Northeast will spend twice as much on a prom as every other region of the country.

Jason Alderman, senior director of Global Financial Education, Visa Inc., says, “Prom season spending is spiraling out of control as teens continuously try to one-up each other.”

Alderman adds, “It’s important to remember that the prom is a high school dance, not a wedding, and parents need to set limits in order to demonstrate financial responsibility.”

The survey also reveals that parents are planning to cover 61 percent of prom costs while their teens are only covering the remaining 39 percent.

“One of the reasons that prom spending may be running amok is that parents are paying the vast majority of costs, giving teens little incentive to economize,” says Alderman.

Other notable survey results:

  • Northeastern families will spend an average of $1,944.
  • Southern families will spend an average of $1,047.
  • Western families will spend an average of $744.
  • Midwestern families will spend an average of $696.

Prom spending broken down by family income:

  • Parents who make under $20,000 will spend an average of $1,200.
  • Parents who make $20,000-$29,999 will spend an average of $2,635.
  • Parents who make $30,000-$39,999 will spend an average of $801.
  • Parents who make $40,000-$49,999 will spend an average of $695.
  • Parents who make over $50,000 will spend an average of $988.
  • Parents who make over $75,000 will spend an average of $842.

The Visa Inc. survey is based on 1,000 telephone interviews.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


18-to-25-Year-Olds Prefer Shopping in Stores Rather than Online

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You’d think people in the 18-to-25-year-old age group would be active online shoppers, but a new survey finds 68 percent of them actually prefer shopping in stores for clothing and shoes rather than on the Internet.

The survey by LIM College and the NRF Student Association also finds that just 23 percent of the 18-to-25-year-olds shop from a smartphone or tablet.  But while most people in that age group prefer to shop in stores, 66 percent of them do use the Internet to browse and compare prices.

Additional findings from the survey:

  •     People in the 18-to-25-year-old age group are not as impulsive as commonly believed.  The survey found that 66 percent like to think about their purchase before buying.
  •     Only 20 percent of respondents shop from flash sales sites such as Rue La La and Gilt Groupe.  In fact, the majority of 18-to-25-year-olds are not even aware of them.
  •     56 percent of the age group pay for most of their purchases with debit cards rather than cash or credit cards.
  •     Many in the age group will “like” a brand on Facebook, but more than 88 percent do not yet want to shop thru Facebook or Twitter.

The survey involved 310 primarily female 18-to-25-year-olds.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


December Retail Sales Fall Short of Expectations

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Retail sales in December rose to $400.6 billion, an increase of 0.1 percent but less than the 0.3 to 0.4 percent many economists had expected, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

Customers responded to deep discounts during the holiday season, though analysts are waiting to see if consumers will continue their spending pace in 2012.

The Commerce Department also revised November’s retail sales figure to an 0.4 percent increase from 0.2 percent.  The figure was 6.5 percent above sales in December 2010.

Retail sales were boosted in part by strong car sales in December.  Excluding automobiles, retail sales dropped 0.2 percent.

For the year, total sales increased 7.7 percent from 2010, the strongest year since 1999, Bloomberg reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Customers Outraged at Cancelled Best Buy Orders

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(RICHFIELD, Minn.) -- Best Buy customers reacted angrily Thursday after the retailer announced it would not be able to fulfill some online orders.  The unfulfilled orders for the items in high demand were made weeks ago during black friday sales.

Lisa Hawks, a spokeswoman for Best Buy -- the largest consumer-electronics retailer -- said Thursday in an email that the order cancellations were the result of an "overwhelming demand of hot product offerings" on the chain's website, according to Bloomberg News.  The company boosted discounts during the popular shopping weekend to compete with the likes of Amazon and Walmart, Bloomberg reported.

Best Buy customers took to the online forums to express their outrage, with one customer saying Christmas is ruined.  They bought a Play Station 3 on black friday, it was confirmed, they saw a charge on their credit card, but then days ago came an email saying the video game system was unavailable and the order was canceled.

Another customer tells ABC News that after placing his order on Cyber Monday -- he was notified only last week that his order too had been canceled.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio